Sunday, 14 December 2008

BBTL People

I will have a new Case soon.
REEEEEALY don't know why I mentioned this silly little thing.

Tuesday, 16 September 2008

Case Number Four: The Atheist Fox

Previously on: The Fitcher Files
After an evening of not drinking, Sam is “picked up” by an attractive woman in a leather coat. The chance of making a night of it is ruined when a massive blonde man attacks her. She runs away while Sam defends her, just to find out the man is a werewolf.
Cali becomes more hostile and Sam realises that he needs to be slightly nicer after a talking to by Officer Masterson. So he makes a card and the staus becomes quo once again to the happiness of all involved.
Still worried about the girl, Sam and his dog Cliché track her down to a field where they are attacked by the were. The girl “Tulip” saves them but is distracted and then gutted. Luckily it turns out she was a werecat all along and can get over little things like disembowelling.
Just when it looks like it is the end for our hero, Cali turns up and kills the werewolf.
Wild guessing is made at the reason for the whole case but as the major players are now all dead, it’s all conjecture.
Sam tries to help Tulip knowing he can’t. But she leaves because as we all know True Art is all about the angst.
A completely shattered Sam returns to his apartment to find yet another attractive woman waiting for him.
She is Lady Cassandra of the House of Sibylline. She is an elf. She is representing him in court. She is trouble.

She smiled a smug little smile.
“Oh so you’ve heard of me.”
Quick history lesson. The Sibylline were a group of oracles and seers in Ancient Greece. They wrote down their visions and these were consulted at times of difficulties. Of course most of them were destroyed by angry tyrants who didn’t like being told their kingdom was going to tumble into the sea- but such are tyrants. Anyway, it turns out that elves being…well, elves had their slender fingers in these pies and were members of the Sibylline and were changing the kingdom of man from the inside.
What I am trying to say is that the fact that one of the Ladies was representing me in a court of law was wonderfully terrifying.
I was most likely going to win but at what cost?

“Yes. I know who you are.” I rubbed at my eyes. “But must I do this now? I’ve just come from having ten hells kicked out of me which is adding to a week where I have pushed myself past my limit at least half a dozen times, been shot at, set on fire, drowned, over-dosed and generally battered. So excuse me if I’m not in the mood to have an elf tell me how me winning the case will stop the return of Hitler or something.”
I pushed the fridge door closed and turned to look at her. She hadn’t made an effort to get up from my table. So I decided to just leave and hope for the best.
“So, Lady Sibylline, I wish you a very good night.”
She let out a small sigh and clucked her tongue.
“You’re upset.”
I let out an expressive snort.
“Would you like a cup of tea?” She asked gesturing around the kitchen. “I know there are some biscuits around here.”
I realised that screaming ‘THEY’RE MY BISCUTS’ really wasn’t going to help me. So I simply shook my head and walked towards my warm bed.
Yet she was following me. I stopped outside my bathroom and leant against the wall. Tilting my head as far as I could without it feeling as if it was falling off, I crossed my arms and glared at her.
“I have put my luggage in your room” she said.
There was a small ringing in my ears. I shook my head hoping it would stop.
“I require my possessions if I am to defend you.”
“You don’t just mean representing me in court do you?”
That warm smile again. As if to say “Who’s a smart mortal? Who’s a-? You are! You’re such a smart-!”
I looked up at the clock. It was nearly three in the morning. Better wrap this up and then have a nice coma.
“Listen. I had a protection spell on me which they nicely removed after I got the message. Meaning that they don’t seem too worried about me turning up in one piece. The fact someone somewhere has hired a Seer to defend me-”
“I wasn’t hired.”
“Oh. That’s making me feel so much better. Oh, thank you Seer.”
“I’m not calling you that.”
“I don’t want to.”
“I really don’t think that matters. You have been chosen to be protected by the Elvish court. You should be honoured. We do not defend any ordinary child killer.”
I moved quickly so our noses were almost touching
“I did not kill her.” I snarled.
“That’s the idea, Mr Fitcher” the seer said and patted me on the back.
Grunting, I walked into my room. There was a large trunk blocking my cupboard as well as a number of silky bags. I ignored them as I threw my coat in what I hoped was a coat hanger direction and just crawled on top of my bed. Within seconds I was asleep.

Now if I may give some advice. If you’ve just come out of a battle with an enraged werewolf, for goodness sake change clothes before crashing onto your bed. If you don’t you WILL get stuck to the sheets in a mixture of blood, mud and viscous liquids.
It was to this knowledge that I awoke and swiftly realised that I could not move or get my head unstuck from the pillow.
In addition I was aware at some point someone had entered my room and covered me in some form of blanket. It was soft and warm. Most likely filthy by now but it was better then nothing.
I really should have been getting up but I was warm and as safe as one ever is in a blood-soaked bed. So as common sense screamed at me to at least put on some clean pyjamas or something, I yawned and went back to sleep.

When I awoke once more, it was to the muggy headache you get when your body says “It’s daytime. Why are you asleep? There is no sleeping during the day! You will be punished for this insolence.”
So it was that grudgingly I got up after wiggling and rolling around for a minute. Sluggishly I walked to the bathroom and into a shower.
The experience was a mixture of rapture at being clean once again and smarting burns as the warm water seemed to find all the new bruises and crushed organs. That said it was nothing I wasn’t used to already so I just went with it and enjoyed the warmth.
It just made me glad I wasn’t powerful enough to short out electronics, which would have forced me to have cold showers.
Stepping out I examined myself in the mirror of the medicine cabinet. Yes, that was still me. A me who had been hit a few times with a rope and then dragged over a few rocks but still a me-ish me. I was just glad to still have the full number of eyes, toes, fingers and genitals. I opened the cabinet and began to bandage myself. It wasn’t so bad. My shoulder was a lovely colour thanks to Ace trying to rip it out of its socket. A twisted ankle from slipping on the grass. Burnt hands from misuse of rod and fire. Various bruises and scrapes from continuously having to fall over, jump or punch. All that and a small cut from the pentacle. Stupid Wicians.

Dressings done, it was time to dress. After popping some painkillers, I pulled a shirt and jeans on. Before I left I caught sight of myself in the mirror. I blinked a few times. This wasn’t my shirt.
It was a black shirt with a “Merlin” on it. You know long white hair, long flowing robes and pointy hat. Anyway this Merlin had some strange creature sticking out from his hair. Beneath this was a slogan saying:
Someone had given me a joke T-shirt and somehow it got into my wardrobe.
Intrigue. This was a case. One that would require the best of my-
No screw that. I went to have breakfast.


“Good morning Mr Copperfield” my uninvited houseguest said around a mouth full of Coco Pops. This time around she was sitting with her back to the door, her loose red hair reaching down to her waist. The room was once again unnaturally warm.
I walked to the table to a seat next to her facing the window. She had put a bowl and spoon ready for me thus winning a point in my books- which she promptly lost when I saw she had helped herself to a pair of my flannel pyjamas.
I sat down and poured myself a bowl of cornflakes and cold milk.
We sat crunching for a while. I was able to look out the window while she seemed engrossed in sheets of paper. The windows were steaming up with the heat of a man and what appeared to be a heat-generating elf. Maybe it was going to snow? That would be nice. Oh white Christmas and all that. I ate another spoonful and finished the bowl. I was hungry though. Maybe I could make some toast? I got up.
“I’m making toast.” I said.
“I’ll have the marmalade” she replied without looking up from the papers.
I walked over to the counter and popped two pieces of bread into the toaster. Then I turned to the fridge.
“Second shelf” she said the moment my hand touched the door.
I had a quick image of her walking around the flat looking in every cupboard, deciding what she wanted and then taking it. Then she got into the fridge and started sticking her fingers in jars to taste. She was like a racoon.
I shook my head and took the marmalade, jam and butter out and put them on the table.
She had finished her cereal and was now looking at a different piece of paper.
I popped the toast up and then back down. Wincing slightly, I leant against the counter.
“What are you reading?” I asked.
“Your mail.” She looked up, her face expressionless. Testing.
The image was back but now she was dressed in black and white stripes, small black mask and had a big bag labelled SWAG- as well as a racoon tail. It was an…interesting combination.
“And that is why you called me Copperfield?” I popped the toast out into a toast rack and put it on the table.
There was a moment of quiet broken by scraping and crunching. I noticed she had found plastic cutlery. Guess she was being careful with the whole “iron equals pain” thing.

“I suppose” my guest said around a mouthful of marmalade toast “as an elf I’m supposed to berate you for wasting paper on such frivolous things as” she paused to read the leaflet “coupons for Chinese Takeaway.”
I finished my mouthful first.
“But you’re not?”
A shake of her head.
“No I’m not. And I’m taking this coupon.” She slipped it into a pocket.
Oh no. There goes my free soup with every main course.
She finished her toast and begin to suck her long fingers clean. I quickly went back to looking out of the window. I saw a small smirk from the side of my vision.
She sighed the sigh of one of who has been forced to work with one below them in status.
“No, spending time with humans has corrupted me. All said I get to enjoy such things as running water and soft beds.”
I turned back as I heard a clatter. My guest had taken it upon herself to clear the table.
“And boots.” She said as she got to her feet. “It’s nice to be able to buy boots without having to wait for a deer to die of old age or loneliness.”
She put the bowls and plates in the sink and switched the water on for ten seconds. This seemed to count as clean as she then started to dry them.
As she dried she hummed to herself. It appeared to be some form of jig. It was beautiful. That was it. I was leaving.
Getting to my feet, I began to head to the door.
“You just leaving?” my guest called, mock hurt in her voice. “No kiss goodbye? After I made you breakfast. For shame Mr Copperfield. For shame. I could have sworn you were a gentleman.”
She was smirking again. It was still attractive which I guess was the point.
I stopped and took a few deep breaths. I was really too tired for this.
“Look Cassandra.”
“Casey.” She began to pour water into the kettle. The seemingly effortless grace this woman was trying to portray was rankling.
I needed to sit down. So I sat on the arm of my sofa. It had a pile of blankets and sheets neatly folded on top. At least the mystery of where my guest slept was resolved. Next week: Where on Earth is Lord Lucan?
Distracted, I gently rubbed my hands. Yep, still blistered. As much as I wanted to scream and throw the woman to the curb that would ensure a Guilty charge as well as the wrath of the Elvish court. So I calmed down and spoke in the calmest way I could.
“I’m not used to strange woman turning up uninvited in my protected home, reading my post and wearing my pyjamas. That’s all.”

There was a soft thumping as my guest sat down on the sofa behind me. She leant back and shuffled to get cosy.
“Look it’s quite simple. I’m protecting you and I am a guest. Under the rules of etiquette, you offer me full run of your house and all things inside. Be it your food, your clothes or your women.”
“I don’t have women.” Well to be fair I seemed to have nothing but women but they weren’t mine to give away.
“Would you consider picking some up when you get more cereal?”
I glanced over my shoulder.
She then smiled again. This time it didn’t seem so conniving, so perfect. ‘No’ said my mind ‘it’s still as put on as ever. You’ve just fallen for it.’

She leant back further in her seat and stretched her long legs out so she could examine her feet. Need I tell you they were dainty?
“I’m sorry you weren’t told I was coming.”
“Why should anything about this be easy?”
There was a pause. Everyone thinking his or her own thing. I broke the silence. Someone had to. At least I could try and find out what she knew about me.

“I had thought I was going to be charged for having my dog so I did some stupid things. Almost lost a friend.” I thought back over the last week. “Actually I’ve done a lot of stupid things” I looked down at my blistered hands “and now I’m paying for them.”
I rubbed my face and breathed in the smell of antiseptic and my own flesh. What a lovely smell. How it made me want to have more breakfast. Nope, not at all noxious.
“If it helps at all I really didn’t kill that girl.” Another pause. “Well not actively. The demon choose to kill her violently rather then let go. Should have thought about that. Too late now.”
I got to my feet and leant against the wall. I was feeling restless. I wanted to be somewhere else then stuck in my kitchen/sitting room with an attractive woman from an ancient prophetic clan. Hell bring back the wolves. At least I knew what to do with them. Damn, this was becoming more like a romantic comedy with a minute. Just had to have the crazy fat friend blunder in wearing a traffic cone and we’d be set.
When he failed to appear I continued.
“You know I would like to say every time I close my eyes I see her. That I feel a deep hatred of myself for allowing it to happen. But no. I just don’t. I regret she died and I regret I couldn’t save her. But I do not believe it was my fault.”
I laughed at my own self-involvement.
“Yeah, I’m a bad person. It’s likely it will mean the death of me. Who knows they may change tradition and not nail me into a coffin and throw me in the ocean?”

I moved back to the sofa and sat down away from Casey, head lowered. What a wonderful way to start a morning. Breakfast and a quick rehash of your failures.
“How old are you?” she asked me quietly.
I had to think. How sad is that?
“Twenty four.”
“Young.” Once again the tone was neutral. A statement.
“Compared to you or in general.” I was bracing for a whole “You humans are but fireflies compared to us elves, the great tortoise of the magical world” spiel. As you have probably already guessed, elves and me haven’t had the best relationship. Maybe it’s my need to ask “If humans go mad with loneliness if allowed to live for too long how are you managing to live for thousand of years?” The answer by the by is being double jointed.
Maybe she was aware of this when she simply shrugged and said “Both.”
Still I was unsure whether that was a good thing or not. I just wanted to go back to bed. Heal up before getting killed in a week.
“You were of the Einheriar though. Thought you’d have a better-” Casey stopped and began to dig a hole in the armrest with a finely polished fingernail. Clearly she had missed out nail polish on her list of “Things that make corruption easier”.
“Not a very good one. Got kicked out.”
“I didn’t think they did that. Yet here you sit.”
I wasn’t sure if I was being mocked. Most likely but that doesn’t matter when one is on a pity party.
“They don’t normally. I’m the one exception though. The Fallen One. The Fitcher.”
She stopped digging in so I took that as a wish for me to continue. (This is not a good way to work though kids. Make sure you have at least written consent first!)
“If you have someone’s name you have a power over them. So when we signed up we were given a new name. Well they took mine away when they kicked me out and named me Fitcher after the Fallen Wizard.”
“The Fallen?”
As much as I would have liked to bring up the whole story of the Fitcher Bird I really didn’t want to be getting that chummy yet.
“Oh. It’s basically Bluebeard but it involves eggs and women being dressed up like birds. It wasn’t a high point in our history.”
“You should tell me sometime.”
“If I don’t get killed I promise I’ll tell the story.” Win Win. The best of all the situations.

Casey got to her feet and stretched letting out strange clicking noises as she worked the various crooks out of her body. Of course you’d be sore if you were as old as her. How old I didn’t know but then again all elves claim to remember when your town was “naught but forest for our hunts and you lived in caves and huddled together in fear at our might.” She walked over to the kettle and poured the water into a mug. Pulling a small bag of herbs out of her pocket she dropped it into the mug. After shaking the mug, she took a sip and let out a delighted moan. This done she turned back to me.
“Do you have a shower?”
As if she hadn’t already sniffed all the shampoo bottles.
“First door on the right.”
She walked over to the table and handed me the post.
“Your mother says hello and are you coming home for Christmas?”
She turned out of the door calling over her shoulder. “I’ll help myself to towels.”
With that she was gone leaving me holding the letter looking at the familiar handwriting.

My mother? Christmas? I should have written to her and told her that I might get myself killed. She’d worry though and ask me if I wanted to move back in for a while. I smiled at the thought at my mum fighting off the forces of the Ein.
I was a bit of an anomaly in the family as I was one of the first to have any form of power. Well enough to be counted as a mage. My mother was of an old Irish family. It just turned out it’s the sort of old that was great for saying “Me ancestor fought alongside wit’ Finn Mc’Cul” but not “Oh you’re HIS great great great great great great grandson. Please come be taught how to teleport.”
My mother might be considered if not a Shrub at least a bush. I remember as a child, I fell down some stairs and cut my head open. My father was entertaining some dignitaries and I ran in, blood pouring down my face. Me mam picked me up in one sweep and took me into the kitchen. She washed me down, told me to be a big boy then touched my forehead. Like that the wound healed up. She sat down quickly and told me not to tell my father.
I wasn’t sure if my mother was a wizard or Jesus. What a fun complex to have.
My father really didn’t like the whole magic thing. I had been brought up as a good little Christian. Prayers before bed and grace before every meal. Grow up to be like my uncle and join the clergy. But I forgot all that when I found I can make things move with my mind and a dramatic pose. So I showed some friends that I was a Jedi. Next thing I knew I was before the headmaster and the chaplain wondering why no one seemed impressed by my powers. They seemed more worried about the possibility that I was going to throw up pea soup.
They started the whole “thou shall not suffer a witch to live”. Then I was a smart alec and said “No that was bad magic. The Israelites had their own magicians. It was just a bad translation which the Witchhunters twisted to their own uses to kill innocent women.”
And that was how I got expelled from my school.
I was housebound and was baptised at least three times over the year. The last time was when I was seventeen. As I hit the water I set myself on fire and started screaming “Satan is my master.” Well that was me out on my ear. I bummed around for a few months living on the money my mother had slipped into my hands before the security dragged me out of my home.

My father hasn’t talked to me for three years since I turned up on the front steps of my home. I had been crying and a portion of my left forearm had been burnt off with hot metal to destroy my mark of the Ein. I tried to tell him that the woman I loved was dead and it was my fault. I tried to tell him that I had been forced to let her die by my commanding officer and I had lost my temper. That the officer instead of letting me die had ruined me by letting me live and thus making me an outcast. The Fitcher.
My father didn’t say anything then closed the door on me.
Two years later I was being dangled upside down by an angry Greek mob boss promising to take care of his precious daughter.
And now a year later here I was. Still cut and bleeding and wanting my mother.

I found some rough paper and began to think of a letter.
Dear Mother.
It was nice to receive your letter of the 10th. I am keeping well. I was sorry I was unable to see you at the swimming pool as work at the magazine remains hectic and we need to prepare for the New Year.

Stop lying, I told myself. Explain there is no such magazine as Kraken. Tell her you will die. That this is the last time you will see her.
I will probably be unable to return for Christmas due to these commitments.
I had to say something.
I am sorry to say that I have got myself into some trouble.
No. She’d would want to help. I mentally started a new letter.
I have met a nice girl. Her name is Casey. She is a lawyer, red headed, has pointy ears, is dickty-squat years old, has strange beliefs on things such as property and she enjoys Chinese food.
Now I was being silly. Well since I was being stupid.
Dear Mum
Thought I would catch you up.
I’m a Private Detective. I have a three-headed dog and my work-partner has to wear dark glasses so she doesn’t kill me with her eyes.
I am at present recovering from beating a werewolf and the fact I ruined a young woman’s life by getting her killed. But don’t worry. It turns out she was a werecat all along. Now she has to deal with this huge life change all because I got involved.
Talking of guilt, my lack of skill got a small girl killed by a demon. Now the Ein- you do remember the Apotopaic Einheriar Clan don’t you? The one I had to join after I got in the fight and put a guy in a coma when I Forced into the wall? The one who kicked me out when I tried to kill Blackthorne? Anyway, they are most likely going to kill me for it.
So you might want to return the gifts you got me.
Sorry about all this
Hugs and kisses
Your son

With a sigh I threw it into the mental bin. As best I could I scrawled a quick note.

Cannot come back home due to work.
Will talk to you as soon as I can.

I paused. I had to be the bigger man.
Love to father.
I found and addressed the envelope. Getting up from the table I went to get my coat so I could post my letter.

Upon entering my room, I grabbed my coat and upon turning was confronted by a completely naked elf.
“Hi” she said brightly.
“Huh” I said. Because what does one say?
With a big smile (she never seemed to stop smiling or smirking. It had gone from annoying to scary) she held up two shirts. At least she was getting her own things out…I mean clothes. Her own clothes.
“Which is better?” she asked. Testing me. The good old “Look. I’m completely naked and unnaturally attractive. What do you do Bucko?” test. What larks.
I looked. “The green” I said and then left as fast as I could.

“So let me get this straight. You have the woman you work with, the sister of the girl who’s temping with you who happens to be a police officer, an American whose life you’ve ruined and now you have a mysterious beauty who appears to take pleasure in sending mixed messages?”
“In a nutshell.”
“You need more tea.”
Oh, and there is you- BadgerLookingTeaShopGirl. With your strange striped hair and small teeth. You give me caffeine and scones. Come away with me. On our wedding night we shall lie together and we shall whisper our true names in each other’s ears. You shall be BadgerLookingWife. We’ll grow old far away from the mess of town living and we shall have badger/polecat hybrid babies.
“Thank you.”
BLTSG or BeeElTeeEsGee for short got up from my table and went back behind the counter. I don’t know why I told her about me. She just had that face. Of course I cut out the whole supernatural side of it. That sort of thing was prone to make me sound more insane then normal.
I just sat there looking around the Tea Shop. There was an old lady who appeared to be trying not to look at the strange becoated man with his various bandages and bruised face while still eavesdropping. Just so she could tell her friends “You’ll never guess what I heard. That young man has woman trouble. Yes, I thought he was gay too!” Stupid old woman.
I have anger issues.

“Here you go sir.”
BLTSG put the teapot on the table and sat down again. After pouring herself a cup and adding sugar she began talking.
“You got anything planned for Christm- I mean the holidays?”
I shook my head.
“Quiet time. Not a big holiday person.” My father told me that everyday was a holiday since I was a child and if I wasn’t going to go to church I can stay in my room. My mother swears that he does love me really; he’s just got a strange way of showing it.
BLTSG took a noisy slurp of her tea. I would have thought she’d be sick of it working around the stuff.
“Now that’s sad. I love the holidays. Me and my girlfriend are going to visit her family in California.”
I resisted the temptation to ask if she looked like any form of animal. I thought beaver but then my common decency smacked my head into the table a few times shouting “RESPECT WOMEN AND THEIR CHOICES, YOU BASTARD!”
So I just smiled and said, “I hope it’s nice weather.”
My decency held my body up and whispered “Good boy. Now you be your charming self or I’ll be back” before letting me drop.
I have issues, period.

So we talked for a while. Nothing of any importance. Just talk. Our family. Christmas memories. The time she thought she heard Santa but it was just a snowshift.
It was nice. It was grounding. It took me away from myself a few minutes.

“So this is the infamous Tea Shop.”
We turned to see the entrance of the Oracle turned bodyguard Miss Cassandra Sibylline. She seemed to have found a warm coat and boots with her hair hidden by a bobble hat. When she shook the frost off, it jingled. This was either another test or maybe just bad taste.
Now in the shop, she took off her coat to reveal a woolly jumper. No reindeer, thank goodness.
She hung her coat over and then slipped into the chair between me and BLTSG. Settled she gently punched me in the shoulder.
“You ran away from me. Not getting the whole guest thing are you, Mr Fitcher. ”
I glared but she seemed immune. I was really getting tired of her.
“Fitcher?” BLTSG said raising an eyebrow.
My super secretive plan of just never learning names ruined I stuck my hand out.
“Sam Fitcher.”
She took it.
“Beaujolais?” Casey interjected.
Slightly put out, Bea murmured “Beatrice.”
I prefer Badger.

“He’s told me a lot about you.” Casey said.
Bea was giving me a interested look. I had to be going. I looked at my wrist.
“Would you look at that! I don’t have a watch. Come on Casey, let’s get a watch.”
We stood up.
“You have a good holiday.” I said as I put a handful of change down.
“Will do.” Bea nodded.
“Nice to meet you.” Casey called as I half pushed her out the door.

“She seemed nice.” Casey said.
She kept up with me as we walked away from the shop.
“Can. Can we stop for a moment?” she asked, stumbling slightly.
I ignored her as she kept in perfect stride with me as I hurried down the street. Stupid long legged elves.

With the speed granted by long legs we soon reached the building that held Fitcher Investigations above what we were told a defunct travel agents. When it came to the Mendozas you just nodded and ignored the cars pulling up late at night.
“So this is your workplace?” I gave the elf a fleeting glance. Her teeth were chattering and she appeared to be hopping. Granted I hadn’t given her time to put the coat back on but it wasn’t that cold. Then again I AM a manly man who laughs in the face of the cold. That and it was nicely numbing for my various wounds.
She finally looked annoyed.
“I live in a forest” she snapped.
“No winter in the woods?” I asked.
“Let’s just go inside.” I noticed that she was no longer producing little trails of heat vapour like she had on the way across. She seemed to be losing the power that had heated my flat. Interesting.
The temptation to lock the door was high. Let her freeze then see if she’d answer my questions. So I stood in the doorway.
Casey walked into me.
“Come on. Open the door.”
I kept my hand wrapped around the keys in my pocket.
“How did you get into my flat.”
She put a hand on my shoulder and gave me a little shove. I brushed her hand off.
“I want answers for once. How did you get into my flat?”
She looked around, the hopping quicker now.
“Look it’s really cold. I can’t manage the cold.”
“Stop whining.” I snapped surprising myself. “How did-“
Casey cut me off “I told your landlady I was your girlfriend and I was picking up a box I left. She opened the door then invented me in.” She tried to push past me. “Now please let me in.”
“Why is the Court protecting me?”
I pushed her back and she almost slipped. Her eyes were beginning to water.
“Why are you being so mean?”
I had to laugh. It was a cruel laugh. I was sickened yet didn’t stop. I needed answers and it seems I wasn’t worried how I was getting them.
“Mean. Did you just pout and call me mean? Santa Maria, you’re not fifteen.”

Like something snapped I watched her change. Gone was the hurt little girl. She rose to her full height and now I saw the beautiful fury of an elf who has been wronged. It’s the way of the Elves, beautiful and generous to her followers but do not suffer her wrath. For she can live forever without effort and if you’re unlucky so can you.
I just had to push didn’t I? As I braced myself, I thought of the rousing speech of Fredrick the Great to his troops as they fled from battle “You damned bastards, do you want to live forever?"

The street was completely silent. Slowly she smiled. This didn’t seem forced or put on. It wasn’t trying to make her trust her or want her body. No, she was telling me that she could kill me in thousands of different ways.
Her voice was quiet and low. She spoke slowly. No need to rush.
“Oh you think you’re so smart bullying the defenceless girl don’t you? Makes you feel like a man knowing I’m suffering. You think the only way you can get me to talk is if you show off and let me freeze.” She looked straight into my eyes. I tried my best to not look away. “Well you don’t impress me Marwood. ”
“What the hell did you call me?” I said slowly.
The smile grew bigger.
“Oh dear. You don’t like that name do you?” She was pacing slowly around the road. I could hear the frost slowly melt. She was slowly spending her power to scare me. It was working. I wanted to jump on her, to stop her. She was wrong yet more real then me. I took a breath. I couldn’t think like that. We still hadn’t broken eye contact.
She continued, her voice never growing louder. “You don’t like the fact that I know that little secret of yours. The man who had his name removed and was named Fallen. The man whose existence was wiped from history. But not from the Sibylline. We know every little thing about you Mr Fitcher or Mr Copperfield or whatever you want. We know the things you will do. The things you want. Do you know what you want Samuel? You don’t want to be left in the dark, you want to think that you are a man more sinned against then sinning. Yet you are standing in the way, perfectly willing to allow me to freeze to death then allow the world continue in a way that displeases you.”
“I am going to die.” I replied. I knew it was weak but it was true. It occurred to me I had pretty much admitted she was going to lose.
She stopped pacing. “So is everyone.”
I shook my head. She couldn’t have it both ways.
“You’re immortal.”
I blinked and then she was suddenly in front of me. We could kiss with little effort. But I needed my lips so I just looked away.
“How old do you think I am?” she whispered.
A steel fist in a velvet glove. I really don’t know when to just put my tails between my legs and grovel. I was probably learning more about myself in the last week then in the last twenty years.
“I don’t care.” I mumbled, looking to the road.
Her hand was frozen. I felt like my skin was peeling at the point where she grabbed my face and forced me to look her in the eyes.
She still spoke quietly but now it was a snarl.
“I’m forty. The baby of the Clan. I should be studying. I shouldn’t have seen the outside of the temple yet. But the Oracle says I need to be here. That you must not die yet. And if I have to break your legs and tie you up in a box I promise you I will.”
Her part done, her eyes rolled into the back of her head and she collapsed.
Quick as I could I pulled my coat off and wrapped it around her body. Grabbing the keys from my pocket I unlocked the front door.
She was too light, I thought as I picked her up in my arms.
“Well” my Common Decency whispered “was it worth it?” I, not for the first time, ignored my conscious and walked into the office.

“What Sam. What are you going to say? That the ends have justified the means? You needed to do it for the betterment of mankind? What?”
I was sitting in my office, the seating made into a knocked together bed. Casey was wrapped up in the blankets Cali had brought from her room. She was too still. Too cold. That commentary that ran through my life, those pithy little comments, had stopped. My mind was empty. I just sat there holding one frozen hand. Her skin was paler then usual. At least she was breathing.
“Talk to me Sam.”
My eyes were heavy but I looked up. Cali was sitting on my desk looking down on me like some judgemental bird. Just waiting to rip my kidneys out. I couldn’t look at her.
“I wanted” I had to swallow. My voice was hoarse. “All I did was not let her in. It’s not like I withheld insulin from her. I didn’t know.” Fifteen minutes tops in a chill and this had happened. She had been wearing a jumper. The commentary flickered into life to say “You have a habit of killing young woman don’t you?” before dying again. No, not dying. Don’t think of dying.
“You’re upset aren’t you?”
My eyes flicked up as I bared my teeth in a snarl. Cali shook her judgemental head.
“You really don’t know anything about elves do you?”
No because they are a race that thrives on not communicating. No, because I gave up on Lord of the Rings because they wouldn’t stop singing. No because I would not have thought my “protector” would be carried off by a December chill.
Cali let out a long breath and said one of the strangest things she had ever said to me.
“She’s hibernating.”
I blinked. I blinked again. I lifted Casey’s hand up. Then down. Then I shook it all around. I let it go and watched it hit her stomach. Then I blinked again. Finally getting my head around it, I turned back to Cali.
“Like a bear?” I said slowly.
“Yes Sam. Your friend is a bear.”
I looked back down at the unconscious woman. I suppose it’s like the fact that birds and insects shouldn’t really fly. It had no real explanation, you just accept the existence of these impossibilities as they smacked into your windows.
But a race shut down by cold? Uncontrollably forced to sleep? Granted she had blasted me with a round of “Look upon my wonders and despair” but still!
“She gets cold and her brain shuts down.”
“Pretty much.” Cali was taking the tone one does when explaining that the cows weren’t small, they were really far away.
“We’re more like wood nymphs but close enough” said the pile of blankets.
I leapt to my feet and pushed the blankets away. Her face was still pale but it had gained colour. She was smiling. This time I didn’t care. I smiled back. It was a wonderful neverending circle of smiles.
She coughed and then continued.
“Back when we guarded the trees, we slept when they did. Guess my body clock kicked in. At least you humans don’t have to worry about silver or sunlight.”
“We humans have a severe allergy to gravity.” Cali said.
Casey coughed once again.
“Can I have some coffee please?”
“Sure.” I said, getting to my feet only to be stopped by Casey’s hand on my wrist.
“I need to talk to you.”
Cali nodded and tactfully retreated. I sat back down.

We stayed in silence for a while.
“I am really sorry.”
Casey let out a small ‘hmm’ . She rolled on her side and I could see the force of Nature was back.
I leapt up knowing I needed to get out of the room. I began to shout to Cali as I reached for the chair to throw at the elf.
Like a snake, Casey sprang from her bed and smacked me hard in the face with the palm of her hand.
I felt the pain of the blow as my vision exploded in lights and then into darkness. I felt vertigo and my ears rang. My mouth felt like I had been eating wet grass . I smelt smoke. And that wasn’t ringing from the blow. That was bells being rung in short bursts.
But it was still dark.
All of sudden I felt a hand on the back of my coat and I was being dragged to my feet.
I was swung around as I got a moving look off dark sky and grass. Then a face appeared in my swirling vision. Still blurred I guessed male, brown hair, dark eyes. He was panting slightly and was tilting my head around, checking for something.

“I guess you’re going for a William the Conquer ‘I take this land’ motif. That or you’re just useless.” the man said amused with a Scottish accent.
Oh merciful heavens, no.
Shaking my head, everything swam back. His nose wasn’t broken and he was less scared but I knew this man.
“Blackthorne?” I croaked.
He flashed a smile and patted my cheek. “You remember me. You’ve got that and you’re fine. ”
With one last check over, he strode off, leaving me stunned.
I was aware of the bustle of people unpacking and moving things. Blackthorne was yelling at some box carriers. I turned to look at what had made me take a mud bath. My mount looked back at me curious.
Clearly I had fallen off a dragon. Of course. Yawning, it lay on it’s belly. Its giant yellow eye was as big as my head and yet I could tell it was checking me over. Maybe it was going to try for a nibble.

“I know it’s a nice dragon but you can spend as much time as you like making moon eyes at it after we’re done here.”
I almost screamed. She had managed to sneak up on me. But she always had that power.
“Yeah.” I felt her body next to mine.
Arnica. Jen. Young, innocent, doomed Jen. I didn’t want to look at her. I was starting to see what this was. Casey was right. I would be sorry.
“You look sad.”
I didn’t look up from the dragon as I spoke what I was thinking.
“I know our love is a doomed one.”
“Yes, but I’m sure the stablemaster will allow you time to cuddle up. If you ask nicely.” She glanced around quickly and then gave me a quick kiss on the cheek. She had to stand on tiptoes being nearly six inches shorter than me.
And like that, she was back to a professional, checking the tack of the dragon and stroking it’s nose. The creature purred under her hands and I remember that I had always thought she had one of the best commands of animals of anyone I knew.
Jen appeared to notice me watching her.
“The sooner I finish this, the sooner the two of you can plan your honeymoon.” She flicked a cloth at me. I smiled despite myself. She stuck her tounge out at me.
What I had thought was proved as I began walking with the crowd.
In the dawn light, I could a small town on a hill with a massive old ruined castle in the middle.
Ruritania. I was on the Ruritania mission.
Within twenty four hours, I will have try to kill my commanding officer. And Jen would be dead.
Oh boy.

Monday, 14 July 2008

Case Number 3: The Hair of the Cat that Scratched You

Previously on: The Fitcher Files
Sam’s actions caught up with him when he discovered that he was to be charged with the death of the girl who exploded at the Snow Ball. While buzzing from a potion, he insults Jess and has to have a clothed shower to calm down. His old friend, Caspian DeFlyn, informs him he will be prosecuted by a man named Blackthorne. Sam isn’t happy and faints again from his wounds and exhaustion.

I stumbled out of the bar, my head gently beating along with the music behind. Slowly I began to head towards what I hoped was the right way.
Not that I was drunk of course. Big no-no there. Morose or giddy wizards are the sorts who decide that the girl they’re talking to needs to take off her top but are too drunk to do the trick right and then you have a girl with no mouth or who’s been sent to eighteenth century Peru. I hear it’s lovely, but that is beside the point!
I had been in the bar purely to lean back in shadowed corners looking out for possible cases or people who needed my help. I was hoping to pick up on some local gossip as well as a spot of the mythical talk. Drunken tales of apocalypses and towns disappearing in the night. Normal Wednesday night talk.

“So you’re one of those mages that are all the rage nowadays?”
I made a small turn of my head. An attractive be-leathered lady was stalking me. An American I guessed by the accent. Lucky ol’ me.
She smirked and brushed her dark hair out of her face.
“Go ahead magic boy. Dazzle me.”
I supposed she didn’t really mean that. You don’t want to have someone shine flashing lights at you at this time of night. Well, maybe YOU do but I didn’t. Still I stopped and stretched. I wasn’t sure why I was doing it but I wanted to have someone impressed by my skills for once.
“Fine. Okay. Right. Okay.” I cracked my knuckles. “Imagine the average pack of cards. Right? So now take one of the cards and remember that. So put it back into the imaginary pack. Now give me your hand.”
She put her hand into mine. It was much daintier then I expected. I had noticed she had a holster at her waist. A hunter perhaps? Gun enthusiast? As I looked into her eyes, I held onto the hand. Amused, she held the gaze.
Just in case she had any latent powers I thought about “Jingle Bells”, as if it was being broadcast over a massive loudspeaker. If she tried to read me she’d be deafened AND annoyed- a winning combination!
I squinted.
“I can tell you that your card is not the seven of Clubs.”
She laughed.
“Oh well done. Is that your trick?”
I shook my head.
“No. The trick is that I have your watch.”
She looked down at her wrist and I could now tell you, thanks to my new watch, she swore at me for forty seven seconds. It is good policy to annoy the hunter with the shiny pistol.
Dropping the watch into the waiting hand I watched her put it on. There was a fine scar running up her left wrist. Possibly clawmarks? Intriguing.
“Do you steal from all the women you pick up in bars?”
I wanted to say something like “Purely their hearts” but I just mumbled, “I have very nice fingers.” Okay maybe I had had something to drink but I didn’t want to send her to Nepal or anything.
A small grin played across her lips. ‘Okay’ it appeared to say ‘I shall play your bizarre nonsense game.’
She placed an arm around my shoulder and pressed into my side, pushing me into a walk. I guessed I’d been pulled. I guess my rambling was attractive. I was a romantic idiot savant.

But why should good things last? As we passed yet another alley on our trip to wherever we were heading, there was a crash of bins. We both spun. Straining I tried to see whether it was a drunk or a cat. Heavens forbid a drunken cat.
Out of the shadow came a man. Now wasn’t that worth the mild tension? But it’s true. He was a man. Cropped blonde hair, tall and missing his left eye as well as portion of his left cheek.
“Chewlip,” he hissed. He had a lisp. How quaint. Then again, try to speak normally if you’re missing a cheek!
My new friend didn’t seem happy about this.
“How the hell did you find me Ace?”
“How do ya think I fand ya?” He clearly didn’t uphold dental hygiene as a priority.
Now as a supernatural detective it pretty much stands to reason that I would have an overblown sense of honour and a need to save women from their natural tendency to get into trouble. I should be thinking that the attractive brunette would never find it in herself to do anything worse then drop litter and then be amazed when I awake tied to the train tracks.
Yet I could never get it right. Maybe there’s something snapped in my brain that means I can’t manage to blindly trust a pretty face.
I’ll hand in my private dick card in the morning. My point is while I was thinking how unfortunate this all was part of me was saying ‘she’s probably the one who took his eye and yet you’re going to get involved because-’ and here the brain gave me her not wearing the leather and being rather grateful to me. Then she ripped my eye out. But at least it saw something nice before it went.

I looked up blinking.
The two of them were staring at me confused.
“You’ve been standing there making faces for the last few minutes” Tulip said, guardedly. At least I supposed it was Tulip. We hadn’t exchanged pleasantries.
“Faces?” I was appalled. Could people tell that I was talking to myself like that? This was deeply troubling and would surely spell ruin for my career as a poker champion.
“Who the hell are ya anywaz?” Ace growled.
Something I knew.
“Samuel T Fitcher.” I said not really knowing what to expect. Surely my name would have entered some form of common knowledge by now. You know, protector of the protectionless and all that.
Ace looked at me. I began to slip into a fighting pose ready for him to punish me for killing his demon lord or sending a scion of his cult to jail.
Instead he said “Like the sspy?”
“No, not like the spy.” I replied slightly put out. It seemed I had a way to go before I became the scourge of the darkness.
“Like the bird?” Tulip added.
I shook my head. “No, that’s a finch. A fitch is a polecat.”
“A what?” she asked.
“It’sh a Shkunk.” Ace added.
“I can’t but feel we’ve gone off topic.” I murmured.

Ace nodded then leapt at me. Should have expected it but there you are. I tried to conjure a shield with my bracelet but he was too quick.
I spun in the air and struck the wall. I felt the shield shatter while I enjoyed the blinding flashes before my eyes. Oh possible brain damage- how I’ve missed you.
Struggling to my feet I gave myself a quick mental checking. My arm was still attached thanks to the bracelet. Good enough.
Kicking out, I managed to hit a shin. Ace grunted as I pushed him back. My elbow contacted with his nose and there was a nice crunch and spurt of blood. Five points to the mage.
My revelry was ruined when he grabbed my arm and began to pull it back. No way I was going to give him the twenty points for breaking my arm. So I stuck my fingers in his patch and shoved. He didn’t like that one bit. Letting go, he put his hands to his face and howled. A proper howl as his face began to shift into something more bestial.
I had just tried to take a werewolf on in unarmed combat. He wouldn’t have broken my arm. He would have ripped it out and beat me to death with it. The things I get myself into.
While this was happening I noticed Miss Tulip making a subtle escape by sprinting down the alley.
I summed my feelings and emotions up rather well, I felt.
Ace looked around and let out a bark at the now running woman. began to race after her retreating form. No way she was going to leave me to fight this thing by myself. All this thanks to the broken chivalry portion of my brain.
I had almost caught up with her when I felt a weight on my back. As I stumbled Ace, fully lupine, flew over me. Spinning on my heel I drew the blast rod out of my coat and fired. The rod hopped in my hand and I fumbled it. The spell missed the sprinting wolf, breaking a window.
With in seconds, I was alone with naught but a few bruises and a dented shield bracelet to show at the next cheese and wine party.
Groaning slightly, I bent down to pick up the rod. Then I went to get silver.


Opening the main door, I slid into my office and pulled the cabinet open. I didn’t have a lot of weapons but I knew I had a silver blade somewhere. I know it should be a gun but gun laws made that a spot hard.
That said I could pop downstairs to the safehouse. “Hey chaps, the Private Eye who lives above your den of crime here. Just wondering if I can borrow one of your shooters to go kill a mythical beast who may or may not be consuming a young woman as we speak?”
I was pulled from my thoughts by a cough.
Brandishing a mistletoe stake (for those Viking vampires) I glanced up. Framed in the doorway, Jess and Cali glared back with identical looks of annoyance. Well, Jess looked. Cali emitted menace. I remember a time when she liked me. That was a good not-quite-a month of friendship I had going there.
“What?” I said slowly.
“Where’s the pizza?” Jess said.
“You said you were getting a pizza while we sorted through our budget,” Cali added.
“Budget?” Did I have space for the…what was it? A scythe? An axe? I put it back, not having the time to identify weapons.
“We haven’t had a client since Daddy nearly a week ago.” Jess said more morosely then I thought it needed to be. “And you have a habit of breaking things which we need to pay for.”
I examined a red sock that seemed to be stuffed with conkers. Why did I have this? Tossing it into the bin I faced the door.
“Fine. We’re in financial problems but listen to what’s happened. I went to check on the Hole.”
“Hole in the Wall,” Cali interrupted, “isn’t quite a demon bar but if they want to drink they end up there most likely.”
I glared. I wanted to get this done as quickly as possible. Jess didn’t need the additional information. Anyway the Hole wasn’t a demon bar. It just happened to sell Brimstone and Coke for under a fiver. Good deal if you could drink it.
I started again.
“So I-” oh what to reveal? “I met a possible client. But as we walked away she was attacked by a werewolf. We fought, the client ran and now I need some silver.”
That done, I dove into the amulet drawer. Yet they wouldn’t leave the doorway.
“Silver. Anything silver I can stick down his throat?” I called at them.
Getting to my feet, I started to look through the change on the desk.
“They’re all brass ones.” Cali said as if this was self-evident.
“What about that penticlegram thing of yours?” Jess asked.
“I like my pentacle,” I murmured. Images of me having to hold the necklace in my hand as Ace bit it off. Tummy ache. Ends justifying the means.
Of course I could just melt it, or stick the broken part in his eye socket. For there are fifty way to kill your werewolf.
Really, I wasn’t sure why I was worried. Stab anything hard enough and it should die. But there was a way to do things. Years of tradition to uphold. Can’t be saving humanity from destruction willy-nilly, can you?
At last my hand closed over a handle in the drawer labelled “Mis. Stabbing.” Pulling it out, I now had a tarnished 4’’ silver blade. Yes, this will stop my neck being torn to giblets.
I grabbed a sheath off the tierack and attached it and the blade to my trousers. I could continue to play through the possible strategies. The silver would counter the healing advantage Ace had over me. But honestly everyone had a healing advantage over me, thanks to me being a potion lightweight. Such is my life. Hell, where would I get my kicks otherwise?
“So are you going to help me out or are you just going to stand in the doorway?” I asked, deciding against the vial of holy water. I didn’t want to fall onto it and have shards of holy glass piercing me.
Jess asked the question we were all thinking, “What about pizza?”
“Tell you what, we come back in one piece we can get pizza,” I said.
Cali didn’t move.
“Are you coming or not?” I was starting to get annoyed.
Finally she turned around, took her coat off the back of a chair and walked out without a word.
I followed, leaving Jess to lock up.


You could argue that running back for weapons cost precious time that would have been better spent just running after the wolf and hoping I could kick him to death. If Tulip had been killed by the time I got there I would have- in fact where was I going?
I stopped my dramatic walking and Cali and Jess walked into my back.
This sort of lack of planning and need to just run around randomly might explain the client lull. “Oh I’m sorry. I thought you wanted me to find the killer not protect you from him. Am I still getting paid? Was that one blink for yes?”
I sat down on the pavement and tried to ignore the confused questions.
What did I know? I met Tulip in the bar, I was my usual obnoxious myself, we got attacked. No, she got attacked: I just gurned and broke a nose which would be healed by now. Had I considered she knew what she was doing? Even if she did, was she worth saving? But that way laid Nietzscheian doom so I stopped.
“Get up.”
Cali was emitting that intense fury still.
“Get up. You drag us out in the midst of winter to hunt a wolf, you can have the decency not to sit in the road and make faces.”
Snarling, I got to my feet.
“If you have any ideas how to find him, be my guest!”
The anger was gone, replaced with indifference. Shows what a great leader I am that I provoke such loyalties.
Cali slipped her hands into her coat pockets.
“As much as I’d love to, I know nothing about him.”
“Goes by the name of Ace. About 6’4’’, cropped blonde hair, left eye missing, nose broken thanks to me and-”
“What about the client?” I was beginning to get sick of these interruptions.
“Late twenties.”
I had a flash of her smirking face. Would I like to have seen more smiles? I guess so.
“She had a certain Je ne suis quois”
“You even know what that means?”
“I don’t know.”
“Well, find out.”
That was her comeback? Ridiculous stand-up? At least I was still maintaining an iota of professionalism- even if it was achieved by belittling my colleague.
I continued with my description.
“Mid-length dark hair, tan, dainty hands, American. She’s wearing a leather coat- ”
“Oh leather. She must be evil then.”
I pushed myself into her face so we were almost touching noses.
“If you’re not going to help then just go home.”
She shoved me back.
“I don’t like the way you’re acting.”
“Thought I was paying you enough not to care,” I snapped back.
“Clearly not enough.”
She stormed off back the way we came.
I looked at Jess. She had been slouched against a lamppost trying to stay out of the way of the hissyfit.
“Do you want me to follow her?” She seemed to address this to the moon rather then anyone who could give an answer.
“Do you want to follow her?”
I was tired and just wanted to go to bed. Ace had probably caught his prey by now. Chalk up another in the list of “People Sam has got killed through ineptitude.” Hell I was just getting over the fact I got a girl ripped apart by a demon and I was likely going to be killed for it.
Remember kids, it’s all about the angst. You don’t have that; you don’t have anything.

Jess glanced briefly at the retreating woman.
“She probably needs some time.” She didn’t seem overly worried about this. Unless this was me projecting onto her. I had to check I wasn’t literally projecting my feelings. That would have been the perfect ending to the evening.
“You okay with me going home?” She seemed as exhausted as me.
I looked around the empty road. When no mangled corpses fell into my line of sight I agreed to let her go. I even offered to walk her back.
“You don’t need to,” she said quickly- which made me believe that no one liked me anymore.
“If I don’t, this will be the one time you get jumped. Sod’s Law.” Following that logic, I’d run into Ace. Kill two birds.

In retrospect, I would have rather had Ace. As we approached the house the door flew opened.
“Where the hell have you-” she stopped when she saw me. Her face changed from simple annoyance to annoyance with a delicious side order of hatred.
I just sighed. “Karin”
“Offic-” she began, getting ready for a rerun of her “Respect me” rant. “Officer Masterson. Yes, yes.” I pushed Jess towards her house. “Sister. Go. Take. Leave. Shout. Night.”
But it wouldn’t be a true meeting with Karin if I didn’t try to ensure myself a period in the cells.
“When you find a mangled woman in the morning that’s all my fault. Goodnight Jessica.”
And off into the darkness I huffed.


“Your order sir.”
I winced at the clatter of the china on the table. My head was thumping. I hadn’t had any luck after spending a few hours looking into bushes and getting in a screaming match with a drunk. In the end I had fallen into bed around two. Now it was a freezing Thursday morning and I had to get awake enough to deal with the fallout of the many stupid things I had done.
“Thank you, BadgerLookingTeaShopGirl” I murmured absentmindedly.
“You’re welcome, InsaneLongCoatedPrivateDetective” she said as she walked back behind the counter.
I blinked a few times.
Did she have that planned before? Was she naturally quick with the comebacks? Could she teach Cali? Would she be my friend?
All mildly interesting- but I had tea to drink.
There were a couple of students sitting at table behind me. I watched them in the inexplicable mirror hanging on the wall. Their constant stroking and giggling was distracting me from building up a good brood. The girl picked up her bag and leaned in for a goodbye kiss.
“Wait, before you go,” the guy reached into his pocket, “there’s something I want you to have.”
He pulled out a small wooden box. The girl moved to stand before him and blocked what was going on from me. I hate it when people stopped me intruding into their private lives.
The girl let out a small squeal.
“Oh it’s beautiful. But isn’t this-”
“Yes it is,” so bloody smug.
“But I thought the old lady dropped it into the sea.”
I blinked a few times. Yet the madness continued.
“Well I went down and got it for you.” He leant back in his chair, wallowing in his own brilliance- and excellent swimming talents.
“Oh you shouldn’t have,” she squealed as she threw her arms around him and leapt in his lap for more smooching.
I ate my toasted teacake in disgust.
It was in the position of aggravation I prepared to write a strongly worded letter to the Times over miscreants. As I got to the part where they should all be put in deep holes and have cabbages thrown at them until they buckled down and flew straight, the door opened and in walked my personal Javert.
I raised a hand in greeting.
She looked at me and I was pleasantly surprised to see that she didn’t scoff and turn around or throw some icy barb about my lack of morals. No, she simply ignored me. Kicking myself for expecting miracles, I went back to glaring at the canoodling couple.
“I’m going to sit down and you’re going to talk only when asked to. Is that understood?”
I looked up. Officer Masterson was glaring at me, making me rejoice at the stability of the status quo. She was in her full uniform, which would have provoked some reaction from me about the hat or the jumper but frankly I couldn’t be arsed.I nodded and she sat down, blocking the reflection of the teens. Small mercies.
Taking a slurp of her coffee the staring contest began. Her eyes remained steely. I started thinking of what I needed to buy next time I went shopping. I was onto ‘a nice pair of warm socks for those cold winter nights’ when she spoke.
“I don’t like you.”
Well, I thought, I would have only guessed via your words, actions and general demeanour but now you’ve put it so bluntly I know for sure.
I just raised one manly eyebrow.
“Stop making faces,” she growled. Oh law of three. How wonderful.
“Now I don’t like you but my little sister has got it into her head that you’re some kind of champion.”
I winced.
“Don’t say that.”
“What?” She seemed slightly startled by this reaction. She had probably being waiting for the outburst later on.
“Why not?”
“Just,” I paused, “just don’t.”
After she looked me over appearing to reassess me, she restarted the speech.

“She sees you as a hero”, here she paused and continued when I didn’t throw the table out the window, “and believes you make a difference. That somehow her being with you is important and you need someone to ground you.”
“And that person is her?”
“She thinks so. I don’t like it but she’s sure she can help you. She believes her work matters.”
I stirred my cooling tea. Was the spoon silver? Focus Sam.
“It hasn’t been a week yet and she already believes she has made a difference?”
Officer Masterson let out a breath and shook her head. She appeared to be looking back over the years. I just licked my finger and began to pick up teacake crumbs.
She sighed a little.
“She’s always been that way. Believing she can help those who didn’t ask for it. When she was a kid, she-”
Officer Masterson appeared to remember whom she was talking to. That I was on the no-no list when it came to spilling one’s heart-warming tales of children rescuing rabbits or sticking their fingers in household appliances.
I tried to resume the conversation.
“Do you want me to fire her?”
She shook her head slowly.
“She’d still try and get involved. Maybe even by herself. I don’t want that.”
I let out a small snort of derisive surprise.
“You’d rather place your sister’s life in the hands of a perceived madman then allow her to roam the streets?”
Her eyes became steely. As we did, the hairs rose on my neck. She was really projecting something here.
When she spoke, it was quiet but very, VERY certain.
“You know what’s out there.”

I sat back in my chair hard. This was it. This was the steady realist Karin Masterson coming out and confirming that I knew what was out there. That the body found sticking out of the bank wall wasn’t some strange publicity prank but someone messing up a teleportation spell. This was big. This was the ostrich pulling its head out of the sand. This was the people in the cave turning and going “Oh yeah, you’re right. There IS something causing the shadows.”
Okay I might be overdoing the momentousness of the moment. But I was excited.
I nodded my acknowledgment of the moment and the fact that this conversation never happened. I was never going to get her to come out and say it in front of anyone else. I could also expect no change in the way I was treated. All work and no prize.
Such is the burden of a heroic soul such as I.
“What do you want me to do?” I asked.
“You made her cry. Apologize.”
“I’m sorry.” I said.
She snorted.
“To her!”
“I’m sorry again.”
The glare was less intense this time.
We went back to our quiet voices.
“I want you to promise you won’t let her get hurt.”
I looked away.
“I can’t.”
I held up a hand to hold back the outburst.
“But I do promise to do everything in my power to keep her safe.”
“Thank you.” I got a small smile, a genuine smile.
The day was looking up.


When I got back to the office, it was empty. At least the ward above the door stated that no one was in. I unlocked the door and stepped inside my office.
The floor was still a mess from the previous night and there was paper on most of the surfaces.
Walking into the bathroom, I got undressed and took a good look at myself in the mirror. Sure I had been staring into one earlier but now I was rejuvenated and ready to face the day. I was also a mess of bruises. A week’s worth of smacks and bangs had taken a toll on me. I had a lovely pattern of purples running down my back and my shins were going yellow. Also I couldn’t move my right arm easily above my head.
That said I still had my left arm, thanks to my bracelet, and my face wasn’t too badly smashed. At least I could see.
I showered and then shaved. Then I began to try and fix my life.

First to try and sort things out with Cali.
I grabbed a piece of paper off my desk and made an impromptu card.
On the front I drew a doodle of a man in a long coat with a sad face.
Inside I wrote:
To Cali,
I am very sorry that I acted like an idiot.
Though under a lot of stress, it was wrong of me to take it out on you.
You have done nothing to deserve the way I treated you.
I hope that you can think about forgiving me.
Then a smiley face.
I hoped she would be charmed by its homemade magnetism.
That done I began to look through my weapon cupboard and try and think of a way to organize it.
After an hour I had a pile that needed cleaning so I began work on that with a cloth and holy water.

After forty-five minutes the phone went, so I answered it.
“Fitcher Investigations.” I said in what I hoped sounded perky and bouncy. “Sam speaking. How may I help you?”
“Um” said the voice at the other end, “I uh.”
“Is there a problem Sir?” I said still sounding as full of beans as possible.
“I want to, ergh.”
“To ergh sir?”
“I want a” he mumbled something.
“I’m sorry. I did not hear that. Could you please repeat that?” The perkiness was starting to hurt.
“I want to order a girl.”
“What?” I said as my voice dropped back into its husky setting.
“A girl. I want to hire a girl.”
“Well we don’t have any girls at the moment. You do realise this is a private detective firm don’t you?”
“I thought that was a…you know?” I could see him wave an ineffective hand in the air.
“A firm that deals with…well when I saw the advert.”
I let him dangle there. After choking for a bit he finally got to what he wanted.
“You’d have girls you’d send out to catch men in compromising positions. You know like you’d be hired by wives and catch men in bars looking at girls.”
“And you want to skip the comprise and get right to the position.”
“Is that possible? I don’t want to phone those phonelines in case my wife got suspicious but I thought that if I said I was hiring a dective for work then she’d be alright. You see?”
How do I get into these places?
“Sir” I said tired already, “we are not a” I tried to think of a nice term but eventually came up with “knocking shop.”
“I thought with a name like Fitcher,” He sounded on the brink of tears.
“What’s wrong with the name?”
“You know, the fitch is a bird.”
“It’s really a skunk but go on.”
“So are tits. I can’t help that-”
I hung up.

At quarter to eleven I had moved onto reading the mail and was wondering if the office needed a remote controlled beer fridge when the sidedoor blew open wide and my landlady stepped inside. She was wearing a pink dressing gown and fluffy slippers. She quickly spun around when she realised I was sitting at her desk. Possibly because she wasn’t shielding her eyes but I’d like to think it was because that was all she appeared to be wearing.
“You’re here,” she said to the wall.
“Yes” I replied as obviously.
“I wasn’t expecting you.”
She began to walk back the way she came.
“I should get dressed.”
“I’m sorry,” I called after her.
There was a pause.
“Pardon?” floated down the corridor.
I got to my feet and leant against the wall.
“I made you a card.”
“You made me-”
“I even drew a picture.”
“I’d like to see that” The voice was soft and kind again. There was the Cali I knew and loved.
“You can once you get dressed.”
I began to head to my office.
I stopped.
I smiled and kept walking.
It’s like the comic never said. Happiness is a warm-blooded half-dressed semi-medusa. I glad it didn’t because that would make a terrible punchline and make it unlikely to be pinned on cubicle walls. But in this situation it’s fitting.


Now you might think that would be a nice way to end this with me on my way back into the good books of my friends and co-workers. But as you might remember, we had the matter of Tulip to deal with.
So it was that once Cali had got dressed, Jess had turned up, I had apologized, we had all hugged and had some tea and biscuits we got down to the case.
“Can I presume by the fact we haven’t got a police swarm that Tulip’s managed to survive the night?” Cali began.
“Or they haven’t found the body” I added. I wasn’t going to mention I had had a talking to by the force once today.
“Why did you confess to my sister?” Jess asked.
I shrugged wincing as my arm muscle tensed.
“I was in a bad mood.”
Cali shook her head.
“Bad mood, you scream into a pillow for an hour. You do not confess to a crime.”
“You say tomato,” I said cavalierly.
Jess got us back on topic.
“What’s the plan?”
“We need to find witnesses. We can presume someone witnessed a giant wolf chase a young woman across town.” Cali suggested.
“But are they going to tell us that?” I said.
Cali and I shuddered as we thought about the selective blindness of people. People who were sure that the massive glowing hole in the middle of the field was simply a broken gas pipe and no, there never was that strange tower where it always appeared to be raining. You might get the feeling I’m not a massive people person.
“We should at least try,” Jess implored.
We all contemplated the possible excuses and gave up with that old chestnut of escaped zoo wolf.
It was Cali who got in the last word.
“Use Cliché. I’m pretty sure he’ll be able to help us.”


Cali’s conclusive conclusion concluded correctly. I found this when my puppy, after a few minutes of sniffing the alleyway, lifted his heads and looked back at me with the left one giving an impression of “What are you waiting for? We’ve got people to catch!”

We scampered off down the road and eventually ended in a field by the railway tracks. Forty feet away was a rusted lean-to shack.
“Wolf?” I whispered.
Two nods. The right head looked worried. So I got to watch a dog argue with itself. Two heads yapping and one shaking.
“Guys,” I whispered. “Do you mind keeping it down? We’re-”
What we were was drowned out by a yowling and a crash.
I spun to see a charging wolf come barrelling at us.
“Go get Cali” I yelled.
But Cliché ran in front of me and began to snarl at the charging beast.
Great, I thought, my dog is going to get slaughtered.
I didn’t have time for using the rod. So I’d have to use my hands.
This was going to sting in the morning.
Bracing myself I pointed myself at the wolf, threw my shoulders back, flinging my hands forward and screamed.
Okay I was running on adrenaline and the shouting is more of a focus thing then a vital spell component. So sue me if I don’t make a stupid pop culture reference every time I want something to go boom.
Anyway, the spell worked alright. Flames shot from my hands, scorching my flesh. It flew across and smashed into the charging wolf. The creature fell back with the blow, giving Cliché and me a chance to make it back to the traintracks.
Yes, we were running away from a faster predator. A case of ‘he turns and runs away will live to be gutted another day’.
As we sprinted I tried to scream “get Cali” again, but I was kind of busy with the fleeing. In fact the only thing that stopped me was the sound of a gunshot from behind me.
Spinning round I saw the beast fall down. Then I saw Tulip holding the revolver.
I blinked not quite sure where she had come from.
“Surprised to see me?” she smirked.
Frankly I had been kind of expecting her to be the wolf but there you are.
She blew the smoke away from the muzzle. Yes actual smoke. It was that old. And silver. Ah.
I turned to Cliché.
This time the heads all agreed and he ran off. Smart dog that one.
“Is he dead?” I asked.
“Silver bullet,” Tulip murmured looking down at the body.
That didn’t answer my question but I took it.
“Why was he looking for you?”
She looked me over. People seem to be doing that lot recently. It was becoming slightly annoying. She finally spoke.
“What do you know about Rasputian?”
Okay, I thought, I’ll run with it.
“Russia’s greatest love machine. He took control of the court through seducing the Queen. The people rebelled him and tried to kill him. Gave him poison, he got better. Shot him, he survived. Then they raped him and threw him in the river. He died a few days later of pneumonia.”
“He was a werewolf,” she stated.
“That I didn’t know.”
She gestured at the prostrate form.
“That’s one of his pack. Antion Falconé aka Ace. My granddad killed his bitch. He almost lost his jaw doing it but he did. Ace swore his revenge on my family. My dad took his eye before,” she stopped and took a breath. Shakily releasing it she continued. “He’s been hunting me for the last two years. Followed me to England. It’s really annoying. I didn’t want to get involved in this supernatural crap. Now it’s all over. ”
So it wasn’t her who removed Wolfie’s face. Glory hallelujah! My faith in woman can remain muddled. Whoop!

I stuck my hand into my pockets and looked at the scene. Wolf dead. Girl safe.
“Well I guess that solves that case.”
Tulip looked at me.
I thought back over our brief meeting.
“Oh yeah. I’m a detective.”
“Yeah,” I said not sure if I liked the way she said that.
She snorted, “Okay then.”
She shook her head.
“No. It’s nothing” and snorted again.

I looked back at the corpse. Something seemed wrong.
“Shouldn’t he still be bleeding?”
She had been walking away. Great, leave me with the furball.
“He’s not bleeding.”
She walked back towards the corpse.
“That shouldn’t be-”
It was at this point Ace pounced and slashed up with one massive claw across Tulip’s stomach. There was a tearing and a screaming. Then a fine mist of red.
Once again, there was no time for weapons. Blackthorne, my mentor would be so impressed with me and all the unarmed combat I was doing.
“You never know when a beastie’s going to go for you” he’d say “so ya better be ready to fight it off with a coat hanger if needs be.” Then he’d throw us in a pit with a gremlin and a freshly cleaned suit and just hope for the best.
As Ace threw Tulip to the side, I threw a little more fire. This time he was ready and leapt for me. Ducking, I could feel him nearly part my hair.
As he flew past, I drew the dagger from its sheath and slashed. There was a pleasant sizzle as it cut its burning path across his stomach.
I rolled as he came crashing down. On my feet I started to head towards the wolf.
It appears that the lycanthropic healing doesn’t work on silver weapons wounds. The bullet wound and my slash had been neatly cauterised. How bloody useful. Didn’t help Tulip though.
I looked. She was still alive! How the hell did that happen?
But I didn’t have time for that line of thinking. It might not be a good idea but I reached down and tried to drag her with me. If she was alive there might be something I could do. I couldn’t do anything if I just left her in the field to be trampled.
I grabbed the revolver off the floor and stuck it in my pocket. Well more I stuffed the muzzle in. My pockets weren’t big enough to fit a…I think it was a Colt but then I don’t know guns.
Then knife in my mouth, I slipped Tulip into a fireman’s lift and began to head for the hut.
We had about twelve feet to go when I slipped on the icy grass. I tried to roll the best I could. Tulip hit the ground with a thump. Scuttling over I checked her pulse. My hand came away wet, yet she was breathing.
I drew the gun, aimed and fired.
It shattered his front leg.
He smashed jaw first into the grass.
I drew the gun round to aim between his eyes.
The last thing I saw before I pulled the trigger was the fear in that one eye.

“Oh son of a bitchwhore” I swore.
I threw the gun at him and missed.
I threw my knife at him.
It would have taken off his cheek if it had still been there.
Slowly he got to his feet.
That eye was looking so smug now with his bloody teeth glinting in the dimming light. If I ran, he’d just track me in the dark. Stupid predators.
I reached into my pocket for my pentacle. Wincing, as I heard a tear I soon had it dangling from my hand. I should be wearing it but the tape kept falling off the shattered part. It worked just fine stuffed next to the old receipts and spent matches.
Sure it didn’t have that much meaning to me. More memories of my other necklace that the Wicians destroyed to show off. As a physical example of my continued existence and my vow to help those who needed it, I could have picked worse.
If I threw my necklace away, I wouldn’t have a focus object left. A lack of words hindered but having no focus object mean no supernatural fuse. You were fine if you were doing little bits of magic such as cooking or healing grazed knees. You go into battle without something to suck up the excess power and you’d probably blow yourself up after a good twenty minutes. That said I guess there are worse ways to go then fighting evil.
No. I was going to stay here and hope for the best.
Not caring if it cut me I slipped the pentacle over my head. Of course the broken bit found some skin and cut me. Stupid Wicians.
Focusing I stuck my left hand out and threw the bracelet forward.
It was slightly damaged but I used it anyway. Last resort. It shot off my hand and created a dome above the Tulip and me.
I stood panting behind the crackling barrier radiating from my bracelet. My wonderful shield bracelet. My silver bracelet.
I’m an idiot.
When I was training for the Ein, Peacekeepers for the wizardly world, we were forced to make our own weapons. I made the bracelet and my blast rod. If I hadn’t been kicked out I would have my own magic sword. But that’s beside the point.
After we made it, we tested it while under fire. We’d be forced to survive a battle to see how they stood up in battle. This one girl Roseate had made these really elaborate things. She wanted to study Metalmancy so had made this really beautiful shieldbracelet that looked like roses and the blast rod was covered in small thorns and vines.
People did that. One guy looked up heraldry and shield design, sketched out his own personal shield with lions and fleur de whatevers. He put a lot of work into the spell and the bracelet carving so that when he used the spell he actually had a giant shield with his design hovering in front of him. Very impressive.
I just got eight pieces of silver sheet and scratched my name on seven and a pentacle on the piece I used as a clasp. Basic workmanship results in a basic dome shape. Not flashy but it did what it had to.
Anyway, Roseate got in the pit with a goblin. Started up her spell, drew her rod and got ready. The shield was a large flower slowly spinning. Offensive as well as defensive. Quite impressive. The goblin swung its blade and hit the bracelet.
It exploded. The bracelet. The goblin as well but the rosebracelet was the first to go boom. Roseate was very nearly killed and was deafened in her left ear. She could have gone and had that fixed but the problem with healing is that you can’t point and have it mend. It would have taken a lot of time. Time she didn’t have if she wanted to be in the Clan.
She moved to the forge where you didn’t really need to hear.
I hope she’s happy.
The point was that I leant that the bracelet needed to be surrounded by a solid and sturdy spell otherwise it explodes.
If I could do this right it would be over. If I got away I could try and make a new bracelet.That or I could stay here until I passed out or Tulip died. Her breathing didn’t sound too good.

The point was that I leant that the bracelet needed to be surrounded by a solid and sturdy spell otherwise it explodes.
If I could do this right it would be over. If I got away I could try and make a new bracelet.
That or I could stay here until I passed out or Tulip died. Her breathing didn’t sound too good.
I drew the rod from my belt, took a big breath and prayed silently to whoever would listen.
“Yippe-ki-ay Mister Falcon,” I screamed as I forced the bracelet towards the wolf. The shield streamed away from me. I felt the jolt as it moved through my body and hit Ace. As it hit him, I shut the spell down while I screamed.
“ACK-DAC” I closed my eyes as electricity hit my bracelet. The shield and the bracelet exploded with a blast of heat and a stink of ozone and burnt flesh. The air was full of the sound of burning flesh and Ace’s yowling of pain. The skin of my already burnt hands cracked as the rod got scorching hot. I dropped it with a yelp and I smelt the burning grass.
I opened my eyes.
His fur was nearly completely gone on his back. One of the links had neatly severed his left ear completely. Yet he was still standing.
I was answered from behind me with a low growling.
I swung around to look at a sleek black panther.
“Oh this is ridiculous. I’ve got a giant dog and a giant cat. All I need is a giant mouse and this bloody thing would complete.”
The cat then did something I wasn’t expecting. It tilted its head to the side and looked confused.
Something clicked and I looked around. Tulip was gone.
The cat tensed its back.
“Do you know what’s happened?”
It shook its head.
I glanced at Ace. He had stopped and appeared to be waiting to see if I was going to get torn to shreds by the new predator.
“I’m afraid you appear to be a werecat.”
Of all the weird things I have seen, a panther re-evaluating its world is one of strangest. There is a lot of blinking involved.
“PHAUCK” she yowled after a while.
This provoked Ace who yet again charged as best as he could.

Tulip sped past me before I could stop her. With a smack, she leapt on Ace’s back and begin ripping into him. She yowled as the silver embedded in his body burnt her. Taking this opportunity, he tossed her to the ground and began to try and bite her neck. He appeared to be going through the last of his strength, yet that last part was more then I had.
Oh well. Fortune favours the brave and all that. I hurtled at the wolf.
“Sam. Down.”
Before I could turn to face behind me, a hand pushed me down. I hit the floor with a thump.
“Keep your eyes closed!” Cali shouted.

I did. I heard running of feet then, over the sound of the fighting, the sound of a gun and an animal howl turning to a human cry of anger. Cali shouting “Up here!” Then Ace screaming in pain. It was barely understandable. I guess due to the fact we’d all ruined his face.
Then quiet. I could hear Cali pant and also Tulip whining.
“A cat?” Cali sounded amused.
“Don’t kill her. Don’t kill her” I called as I got to my feet. Opening my eyes I took in the scene.
Cali had her back to me and to her left lay a naked Tulip, blood smeared and scared. She was shaking slightly. But what really took my notice was Ace.
His back was arched back as if to pounce. His body seemed more like the two legged werewolves of Hollywood then the beast I’d been fighting. All bulging legs and extended jaws. His body looked ready to fight but his eyes were terrified. Part man, part wolf.
One giant stone statue.
Cali had removed her sunglasses while he was changing back.
He was trapped in there. A living statue trapped forever with the pain of changing.
Cali turned around now. She’d put her sunglasses back on. A gun hung from her hand. She began to walk/run towards me.
I felt something bump my leg. I reached my hands down and Cliché gave the burns a good licking. Clever puppy.

Cali reached me and put a hand on my shoulder.
“You okay?”
“Thank you Deus Ex Machina” I murmured, then fell over.

Night had fallen and we were all sitting in Cali’s sitting room. I had been bandaged up and could feel morphine working through my body.
I do not know why Cali has morphine but I wasn’t complaining.
Tulip was wearing the clothes that had survived the change. It was lucky leather figured so highly in her fashion plan. She was nursing a hot chocolate and looking exhausted.
Jess was also enjoying the chocolate and was shivering a little too much to look authentic. She hadn’t been happy that she had been left by herself in the cold while we were battling away. That said, she had managed to find out that an old man was convinced a pooka was eating from his fridge. So that was one more job then we had before.
Cliché was sitting on the other side of the room glaring at her. He looked up at me and his look broadcasted his feelings.
“Cat. Bad. Eat!”
I shook my head and he humphed as if to say “on your inadequate one head be it,” then went to sleep.
Cali. Cali just sat back and watched us all.
I cleared my throat.
“Tulip, I’m-”
“Why do you keep calling me that?” She looked drained. A red scar had narrowly missed her left eye. Maybe it was retribution or just chance.
“It’s what Ace called you.” I said softly.
This gave her pause.
“My dad called me his little Tulip. I thought the wolf picked it up from him when he killed him.”
“I could be wrong completely. I mean I’m highly drugged but I think Ace really was saying Chew-lip.”
She looked baffled. Poor girl. She was going to have a fun time going through a full moon change at her age.
I decided to try bluffing my way through this. I wasn’t really the one who should be doing this.
“The little I know of these things, weres have their own werenames. You know Ripclaw or Skullcruncher. Your granddad lose his lip fighting?”
Tulip shuddered slightly at the memory.
“Yeah. Most of his mouth. It was horrible. I could always see his gums.”“Must have got his lip ripped off. He got the name Chewlip from that I guess. Then it must have been passed down. It’s how these things work.”
Tulip shook her head.
“Why didn’t I know all this before? Why now?”
“You’ve always healed quickly?” Cali asked making us all jump.
“Yeah but-”
A simple shrug.
“I guess the cat part varies when it manifests. For you, you had to be in so much pain it kind of slipped.”
Tuplip looked around the room then threw her arms up.
“That’s ridiculous.”
“That’s weres,” Cali deadpanned.
She smiled a small smirk.
“Of course I’m just guessing here. You could have been bitten by a kitten for all I know.”No one laughed, but we all acknowledged the humour with grunts.
Tulip sunk back into the chair.
“There are so many questions.”
What could I say that would help? No there aren’t? Just go with it and it’ll sort itself out? If I had been in the Ein, I could have handed her over to a “proper authority” and be done with it. Would that have helped her?
She continued talking and I sat and listened, hoping that would help. “I mean did my grandfather fight him because they were enemies or was it just her nature? Is that why my father got involved? I mean I’ve always liked my own space. Is that me or have I got to be that way? Why did my father keep this quiet all this time? Did he know? Was he laughing at me every time he called me Tulip? I don’t know!”
I couldn’t help but feel I’d made things worse. I put my hand out and touched her shoulder.
She slapped me across the face. No, not slap. Scratched without claws.
“Don’t touch me, you son of bitch. You did this to me. If you hadn’t got me killed I’d have been alright. I wouldn’t have been talking to you and noticed I hadn’t killed him. This is your fault.”
With that she got to her feet and stormed out of the room.

I counted to twenty then followed her.

She turned, snarling and I do mean snarling. I could see it in the streetlamp. It shocked me a little. Bestial. When she saw my face, she stopped suddenly. A small sob escaped her. I reached into my coat and pulled out a card.
“As ridiculous as it sounds, this is my card. If you need to talk call me.”
She looked it over. Then turned to look across at the trains go past in the night.
“Aren’t you supposed to talk me into staying?” she said.
“Would you stay?” Would I take her in? Let her join my little group of injured souls. After a pause I realised I would do whatever I could to keep her safe. She’d hate me for caging her up but I’d try. Would that be enough? I didn’t know. It was her choice.
She chose.
She turned and looked at me for a minute. She then looked at the card, looked again at me, walked over, gave me a small kiss on the cheek and then she turned and left.
I stood there and watched her go, knowing that I might regret this when one day I get the call she’s gone feral and I’d have to stop her.
“You really have problems with women don’t you?”
I laughed a quiet humourless laugh. Cali put a comforting arm around me.
“Come on. You owe us a pizza.”

It was gone ten by the time I returned to my rooms. I hadn’t left the radiator on and it was freezing. It wasn’t until I went into the kitchen to get a drink of water and opened the fridge to get a drink I noticed there was a shapely redhead sitting at my kitchen table.
I span and drew my blast rod that was sparking slightly. I fired three times. The balls of energy were absorbed in the shield she appeared to have around her. There was a strong blast of the smell of cut grass and wild flowers. Better then the usual ozoney stink shields usually produced.
She tutted and shook her head.
“Such violence just for little old me?”
She gestured at a seat. MY chair! In MY house. With MY defensive wards up! This was bad.
I sat down and held the rod aimed at her chest.
“Parle?” she said as she placed a rapier on my table. It was a wonderful piece of blade made of shiny wood. Non metallic, bad thing number two
“Je ne parle pas francais.” I was being a jerk for the sake of it.
She raised one fine eyebrow.
She shrugged.
“English then. You’re here. I did think about talking to you in your office but I thought this was better. The personal touch and all.” She grinned and her smile was like the sun on a warm summer’s day. I disliked it. It was too…nice. Also the fact she seemed to be generating enough heat to warm the room by her presence alone. Thing three and four.
“Who are you?”
She looked surprised then laughed. You can guess how I like the fact it was a sweet relaxing laugh.
“How rude of me. I enter your home and don’t even introduce myself!”
The woman got to her feet and raised her right hand in salute.
“Mr Fitcher. I am Lady Cassandra of the House of Sibylline. I’m your lawyer.”
Another smile.
“You can call me Casey if you like.”
Sibylline. The House of the Elvish Seers.

Friday, 11 January 2008

Case Number 2: Haste and Decline

Previously on: The Fitcher Files
Our hero, Samuel T Fitcher, is working as a Private Eye in an English town. His use of magic, and the fact that supernatural cases have a habit of turning up on a near-daily basis, have put him in conflict with the local law enforcement agency, especially Karin Masterson (who Sam has a bit of crush on).
On the subject of Mastersons, Sam was hired by Karin’s father to escort and protect his younger daughter to her school dance. Sam does this and starts to develop feelings for the girl, Jessica. The evening is ruined when a possessed girl tries to kill everyone. Sam fights her off but, unfortunately for all concerned, the demon doesn’t wish to release the girl and decides to blow her up instead.
Sam returns to his office where he is almost killed by his half-Medusa secretary and landlady, Cali. After Sam storms into the office’s hallway, he succeeds in insulting and possibly hiring Jessica. Tired, Sam goes to wash away the gore of the evening.

It is now two days later and we join Sam in his cramped apartment.

As I awoke, I was aware of two things. One, my duvet had fallen off me in the night and I was now freezing. Secondly there appeared to be a small crowd gathering in the street below my window. Struggling, I pushed myself to a standing position and shuffled over to my chest of drawers. I grabbed my “Emergency Kit” bag which was sitting ready for such an occasion. I would really love to say this was the first time I had been run out of town.
I rifled through the bag and pulled out the sports bottle with ‘HASTE’ scrawled on the side in permanent marker. I paused. Did I want to do this? Last time I had tried to be smart and make my own potions I had been chased across three counties by an amorous flock of ducks. Shrugging I took a big gulp, damning the consequences. I’d just have to buy a loaf of bread and hope ducks can’t climb trees.
As the potion splashed down I felt the crick in my back unclench. Over the next ten minutes my body should be waking up and be ready for a possible run. It should also help with the hangover.
This done I quickly pulled on clothes and my greatcoat. I allowed myself a glance in the mirror. The green of my eyes had returned to emerald-green rather then the colour of pond scum. My scruffy beard had been removed to give me manly stubble for women to stroke and coo over.
I thought I looked like the brave demon hunter rather than some weirdo in a big coat. I did wish however that I had a stylish hat to finish the outfit but it seems that every two-bit villain tries to blast your hat off. Combine this with the fact that most baddies can’t shoot for toffee and the hat was just going to get me killed even quicker.
As I opened my door Mrs Brooks, the lady from the room above mine, was standing there glaring at me. I presume she had being standing there for a while just frowning at my closed door.
“Good morning, Mister Copperfield.”
It helps having a separation between home and business. Of course any decent stalker would be able to work out where I was living but I like to think most people would be too lazy to put in the legwork. As far as my neighbours are concerned I am John Copperfield, mild-mannered journalist.
“You were sleeping?” Brooks asked looking up at me over her glasses.
“I was at a party last night,” I said trying to find my way around her.
“I heard you coming in.”
Which is all lies because I spent the last two nights hiding in my apartment trying to read “Crime and Punishment” and then getting drunk and watching “Friends” reruns.

“Do you know what all the noise is?” I asked in my most polite voice, pulling the door closed.
Mrs Brooks made a small scoffing noise that vibrated her teeth.
“Students. Most likely on PCP.”
Oh, stoned students. What wonderful scapegoats you are.
“Good morning Mrs Brooks,” I said waiting for her to move.
We stood there for twenty seconds as she sniffed and looked me over. I kept a polite smile on my face as I imagined making her skin melt into neat puddles on the carpet.
“Your dog makes too much noise,” she said before tottering away.
My dog?…CLICHÉ! I span on my heel. Where was he? Oh hell, I might be fleeing for my life and I almost left my dog.
Luckily I felt three noses press into the back of my hand. I looked down to see him sitting by my open door. The door that I had closed. And locked.
I gave him a scratch on the heads.
“You know you’re very smart don’t you?”
Three nods. Smartarse.
“Come on boy. Let’s go hope it’s those wacky kids all hopped up on goofballs.”
Cliché’s head tilted in a confused manner. This made me exhale noisily.
“Yeah, I don’t know what that meant either.”

We walked out into the crisp December morning and a scene of mass confusion. Around thirty people were standing in a circle around a…
“Hells Bells!” I muttered.
The point of interest was at least twenty feet tall. It wore heavy leather armour, had dirty long blonde hair and a massive beard and was now looking down at me.
“I can see that!” I called back.
I had met Giant Cloud in March when he and his friends had decided to come and see what the humans were up to. It seemed that me being polite to the giants and stopping the army from shooting at them had put me in high enough esteem to warrant a title and a promise that if I ever wanted to build a tower, they’d help.

You’d expect giants to be called ‘Jarlson Rumblebelly’ but it appeared they are named by how big they are and something natural. So I suppose there must be a Small Giant Cloud or a Really Massively Giant Cloud.
People were looking at me now and appeared to be moving back to trap me in the inner circle.
Giant Cloud looked around the circle.
He was genuinely upset. I walked over to one large leg and patted it sympathetically.
“Don’t be sad Giant Cloud. I am your friend.”
He looked down at me and smiled.
One guy appeared to have had enough of this and turned to run.
Giant Cloud snatched him up before he had taken five steps. The whole audience and I jumped in what appeared perfectly choreographed terror. Giant Cloud lifted the man to his eye level.
“ohgodohmygodohchrist” the man burbled.
“Put him down Giant Cloud!” I almost screamed.
He looked slightly confused at this.
“ALRIGHT!” he said, lowering the man down.
Then he suddenly lifted the man back to his eyes.
“Please don’t,” said the man, rather reasonably.
Giant Cloud smiled.
“THERE YOU GO,” he said smiling kindly.
We all looked up at the man who was now stranded on a roof. At least he was alive. I could still handle this. But as I was about to speak I heard a voice from behind me.
“You’re a menace.”
Mrs Brooks. Perfect.
Giant Cloud shook his mighty head.
“Prove it!” someone from the crowd yelled.
I glared in his general direction.
“You’re not helping.”
“I TOO ENJOY THE MUSIC OF THE BANDS. SEE HOW I” Here Cloud made ‘air quotes’ “‘BUST A MOVE’”
“Don’t dance. For all things that are sweet on Science’s green earth, don’t dance,” I called, already running.

Yet my demands fell on deaf ears. Giant Cloud stretched his arms out in front of him and performed what I would call an amazingly simple ‘Mashed Potato’.
The street vibrated beneath his massive dancing feet. Car alarms shrilled and windows shook. At least the crowd had cleared out. Might as well end this before any more damage was done.
“Giant Cloud,” I yelled. He appeared to have moved into the ‘Robot’ now.
“You must cease your move-busting in case your moves get old and gather haters,” I shouted.
This stopped his dancing and he tilted his head to the side.
“I don’t really know.” I mumbled.
Giant Cloud now looked down at my pet and he broke into a massive grin.
“Cliché,” I said as my companion got up on his hind legs and begged.
Giant Cloud looked up from Cliché at me, still smiling.
“In its way.” I shrugged. “I didn’t want to play into people’s hands by calling him Trio or Tripod.”
I froze, hoping he wasn’t going to try and pet him. He just seemed content to smile and chortle as Cliché showed off with his tricks.
“As nice as it is to see you, GC I have to ask if there was some reason for you coming here.”
I grabbed Cliché by the scruff before he tried backflips. It was something to do with equilibrium of the heads that made him facesplant.
“A message?”
My mouth dropped and I let go of Cliché, who let out a huff of annoyance. I begin to advance on Giant Cloud.
“Who? When? Why?”
Giant Cloud shrugged.

“Who told you?” My voice was getting frantic.
I have friends?
“Thank you Giant Cloud. Would you excuse me if I go and put my affairs in order.”
Turning on my heels, I used the burst the potion gave me to speed up the stairs. I almost kicked the door down trying to get it open. I threw down my kit and grabbed my rucksack and began to stuff my possessions into it. Luckily it was an Abbakanezer brand bag and so I could carry twenty times more then a normal rucksack. I thought about blasting the room to destroy any evidence of me being here but I decided it was more important to close the business. Anyway how would I get my deposit back?
I picked up Cliché and stuck him in the crook of my arm and sent off at a sprint.
Only when I was on the stairs to the office did I stop running. I slid down the wall into a sitting crouch and tried to catch my breath. Cliché sat looking at me worried before heading upstairs.
I was vaguely aware I wanted to cry, vomit and die. This is why you don’t do potions, Fitcher. They give you heart disorders.
I felt a pair of hands on my shoulder shaking me.
“You can’t sleep here Sir. This is a business.”
I looked up. There was an attractive young olive-skinned woman with her delicate hands all over me. A single lock of dark hair dangled from beneath a floral headscarf. The scarf obscured most of her face and a pair of fashionable sunglasses hid what I was sure were beautiful eyes. She was wearing a dark skirt and a cream blouse but I could see fine curves and bumps. Maybe I could-
Something kicked in at this point. Flashes of memory. The woman laughing, face no longer hidden behind the scarf but glasses still on. The smell of her hair as we dance close. The taste of a sandwich she made as I try to solve a puzzle.
And now a large upside-down man whispering threats of what would happen to me if I laid a hand on his little girl.
I saw a pair of terrified brown eyes in near darkness. There is a feeling of pure fear and my mind kicks me out into the real world again.
I believe we both recognized each other around the same time. My secretary Calinansis Mendoza backed away in surprise. She’d be clutching her pearls if she had any.
“Sweet Lord, Sam, you look awful.”
“Always a charmer.” I tried to smile but that hurt so I just tried to look broody and mysterious. This most likely came off as lascivious and drunk but at least I tried.
“You better come in,” she said, putting an arm around me and helping me up the stairs.
“You might want to get some interesting teabags. I’m going to be summoned before the Ein.” I laughed. I kept laughing. I was roaring with laughter
Cali’s grip tightened. “You’re scaring me.”
“You’re scared. YOU’RE scared. Hold on folks, you ain’t seen nothing yet!” I roared.

As I was carried into the hallway, I got a glimpse of myself in the mirror. My hair was down to my shoulders, the hobo beard was back and I must have lost four or five pounds in a twenty-minute sprint. This made me laugh even harder. I should have been dead. Why wasn’t I dead? Oh the questions! So many of them!
“Is he alright?” came a quiet voice.
I span on my heel, hitting Cali in the head. I threw my arms wide- that scared the young girl even more.
She’s a young blonde. Slightly babyfatty but she’s clearly blossoming. She was dressed in blue jeans and a baggy shirt. The shirt was the usual Che Guava print except for Che’s hair had some small white being poking out of it. The slogan below it read “I IZ A GUERRILLA HAIRGHOST!”
I waited for another whiz of memories but these appeared to be from the girl in ten years time. Her hair is short and her face was set into a scowl as she drags me into a car. No, not the girl. Maybe a sister. Sister? Things click.
“JESS! Jess is here! Brilliant!” I ran and grabbed her into a big hug and span around. She lets out a small squeak of terror. Something occurred to me. I let her go and looked at her sideways as she tried to regain her balance.
“Why are you here?”
Jess looks around the room confused.
“I work here,” she says as if I’m testing her.
I looked her over at arm’s length.
“Na-ah. I’d remember hiring you.”
“She rang here and I said she could come and wait for you,” Cali said behind me, voice harsh. “When you didn’t turn up, I gave her a practice day. I hired her this morning.”
I glared at Cali.
“Who gave you permission to hire people?”
Crossing her arms she made it clear there was a defiant stare behind the shades.
“I’m a partner and frankly I keep the office running when you’re off getting yourself blown up.”
“Is your name on the door?” I said pointing at the plate of glass.
“Your name isn’t either,” she snorted.
“Is your name on the door?” I said as I got into her face.
I could hear a small hiss as she sucked in.
“You want to fight, Snakey?” I said wicked grin on my face. “I could take you. I’m not scared of your eyes.” I could only see myself in the glasses but I could tell my words had caused a reaction
“Sam, you’re clearly ill. Just calm down,” she said as if talking to a five-year old.
She tried to push me away but I pushed in further.
“You calm down. I’m fine. You’re the one with the stupid condition.”
I tried to attempt her quiet burr.
“‘Ooo, I can never love in case I kill my boyfriend. Poor old me.”
It made me sound more like a Pepperpot out of Monty Python then a half Medusa, twenty something Greek. Whether it was a statement on my lack of impersonation skills or just because I was going too far, I might never know. Suffice to say Cali lost it and struck me across the jaw. I pulled off a lovely pirouette, headbutted the mirror and then fell to the floor.

The next thing I remember, Cali was kneeling on her scarf as she violently rubbed antiseptic into the cut on my forehead. Jess was sitting above me on Cali’s desk. I blinked a few times, head muggy and muscles aching. Now why was I on the floor? Why was Jess looking so angry? Was it me? I wracked my brain. Firstly why was Jess here? Did she work here? Yes and she- a veil lifted from my mind and what I had done punched me in the gut. Also the hangover was kicking in again. Or maybe it was a new headache. There was good enough reason for it to be. There was a high pitched ringing in my head. My groin also ached. I had to wonder if someone had got in a quick kick while I was down.
Looking up at her, I could see Cali was doing her best to give me a cold front. I tried to get her attention.
“Cali?” I was whining but it really didn’t matter.
She answered by stabbing at me with the cotton wool.
“I’m sorry,” I murmured.
She poured more of the liquid on the wound making me wince. I put a hand on her wrist.
“Cali? Look at me. ” Well not at me really. More in my general direction.
She lifted her head, her face wet.
I cleared my throat, guilt not so much gnawing as ripping me to pieces. I knew that there would never really be a sufficient apology but an attempt to explain.
“I’m in a lot of trouble. I needed to get here to be able to cut and run. So I took a Speed potion I made a few weeks ago. I must have taken too much and I’m now on an adrenaline high.”
Cali was shaking her head.
“You ran from your apartment. Don’t you know how stupid that was?”
I started nodding frantically and banging my hand hard on the floor. Great, I had the jitters.
“Yes. Now listen. I didn’t mean to upset you.” I put up a hand to stop her. “We’ll talk if there’s a later. Listen, you have to get yourself away. I’m in no state to fight back. Just pack your things and go stay with a friend.” I turned to Jess “That goes for you too.”
Somehow I managed to get to my feet. The ringing in my head was getting louder. I began to stumble towards my office. I stopped and gave a big smile.
“Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to get some sleep.”
The last thing I remember was feeling as if my brain had just exploded and the carpet was whizzing towards me.

“Now have you calmed down?”
“Yes Cali” I slurred.
“And you’re sorry about what you said?”
“Yes Cali.”
“And you’re going to tell us what’s going on?”
I shook my head, irritably.
“I just want you to pack up and run.”
Cali was calmly sitting across from me.
My patience snapped and I tried to go for her neck with my teeth.
“Because I told you so. Damn it, do what I tell you!”
There was a small thump as the door opened. I tried to make a leap for my office but only succeeded in almost tipping over. Cali had decided that I needed to be restrained so had done so after removing my coat and anything I could attack her with. She had managed to find rope and I was now tied to my chair. Cali caught the chair, righted me then went back to looking at the wall.
Luckily the door banging was simply Cliché coming to check on me.
Jess blinked a few times then went to go play with him. She catches on fast. Most people try to kick him when they first meet. No one likes my puppy!
I tried to fill the silence.
“What exactly does she do here?” I said gesturing with my head. Cliché was now enjoying a belly rub.
“She helped with the filing and answering the phone.” She turned in her seat to look in my direction. “Now can we get back to the running away?”
But I wasn’t so easily distracted.
“And what is she now you’ve transcend to the lofty position of joint partner? Is she going to stay on the phones while you do my runs.”
“I am willing to gag you if needs be,” Cali said ignoring she was the one who hired the girl. I had a right to know how I was being replaced.
“Or maybe I’ll stay here and serve the tea while you two go off on little jaunts.”
Just like that Cali got to her feet. I felt slightly smug until she began to drag my chair across the room.
Jess and Cliché followed behind at a safe distance.
I was dragged kicking and screaming into my office and then into the small bathroom. She left me in the doorway as she went to start a shower. She didn’t look at me as she kept a hand under the stream of water.
“I tried talking you. I tried to threaten you. Clearly you’re in no condition to be any help. I’m going to put on some coffee and we’re getting you sober.”
Happy with the water, she began to move the chair.
“This is harassment.” I screamed. “I should have you fired.”
“I quit,” she said before tipping me under the cold water.

I sniffed and huddled nearer to the radiator. I was in my pants beneath a blanket as my jeans and t-shirt dried from their soaking.
“You feeling better?” Jess asked as she gave me a cup of black coffee.
I nodded as I wondered whether coffee was the best thing to be giving someone coming off what were basically supernatural stimulants. I rubbed at my eyes and was surprised by the amount of wet hair that was dangling over my face.
“You got a hair tie?” I asked.
Jess pulled one out of a pocket and I began to tie my hair back.
“Why did that happen?” she asked waving her hand over the sodden clump.
“You take these potions and you can never be quite sure what’s going to happen. I should have had a heart attack but,” I paused and took a small sip of my drink. I choked. “t’s ’ot”
“It’s hot coffee,” Cali stated as she walked in from the kitchen. As she sat in a chair across from me, she handed a mug to Jess.
“Didn’t you leave?” I asked.
She snorted and mindlessly stroked a sleeping Cliché.
“Nice to see you again Sam.”
“Hello Cali.”
She took a swallow of coffee. “That was stupid and reckless of you. I should break your arm or something.”
I shrugged.
“I had my reasons. I needed to get here quickly.” The advantage of which, I ironically thought, has been negated completely by being knocked out and drowned.
Cali pulled a couple of chairs around me. The women took a seat. I sighed and braced myself.
Cali began.
“You said something about an Iron?”
I put my mug down and cleared my throat

“The Ein are the law enforcers of the magic world. They are given permission to break the Wizard Laws, which are long and stupidly complicated but are most commonly broken down into two simple parts. Firstly, don’t kill with your magic and secondly, a man is master of his domain.”
We all snorted at this.
“It means don’t cast magic which makes people act against their will,” I explained.
“What about illusions?” Cali asked.
I rolled my eyes.
“Acres of sublaws around those. There are limits on what type of flowers you’re allowed to conjure with.”
“Limits? Why?” Cali asked.
“Does Tulip Fever mean anything to you?” I enquired
The women looked at each other, perhaps wondering if I needed another shower. Cali spoke up first.
“Sort of, but-”
“A Wizard did it.” I smiled.
They both looked baffled.
“Okay, the people said ‘Ho-ho! There be money in this whole tulip bulb business’. Someone magics up thousands of bulbs and WHOOF the market collapses. People’s lifesavings are gone overnight. Riots and bloodshed galore. All over some flowers.”
“How do you know this?” Jess asked.
I shrugged.
“I knew someone who was there.”
“Is that a sneaky way of saying you?” Cali said with a raised eyebrow.
I had to laugh at this.
“Nope. Oh Lord you want to get into my heritage?”
“Does it really matter?” Jess inquired as Cliché snuffled in his sleep and rolled over.
Not really but I had a captive audience.
“I’ll make this brief. I’m mostly human which means I’m classed as a mage. If I stay healthy I’d probably last a hundred and fifty years as to opposed to the wizards, who as far as I know have never died of old age.”
“Wizards are different to humans?” Jess asked.
“We really don’t want to get into this subject,” I said, putting my head in my hands. “It involves tons of bloodline charts. They did tests, the mana in my blood is only 57% rather then the usual 87%”
“So you’re weaker magically then an actual wizard?” Cali said, clearly worried.
“I have a smaller chance of having my blood igniting from a sneeze.” More incredulous looks. “It’s true. Winter is a bitch for the wizards. Which made the whole living in the tower seem stupid…er.”

I glanced at Cali “Don’t you already know this?”
“I’ve never heard it from an actual mage,” she shrugged.
“Now brace yourselves, it’s about to get even more snobby. There are four major groups of human magic users. These are Wizard, Mage, Mancer and Shrub. Shrubs are wild magic users who have had no official training. The Wizard and Mages remain Jack of All Trades while the Mancers focus on a certain part of magic. For example Necromancer, Geomancer, Erosmancer.”
“Lovemagic,” Jess interrupted. “But that’s against that law.”
I smiled here. Give that girl a point.
“Now there’s also sorts of class snobbery with everyone hating everyone else. Wizards have to be at least fathered by another wizard and have so much Mana in their blood. But in the Dark Ages, wizened crones kept turning up using power the wizards said were impossible. So if a Shrub goes in for training, they can become a male Mage or a female Witch. They get the same training as the others but never become a Wizard. While the inbred child of a Wizard is a Wizard from birth and can train to be a Mancer.”

“In conclusion, I can never be a Wizard neither can my child who can be a Scrub. We both could be Mancers though. Someone can have a wizard father and still be classed a Mage due to lacking Mana. These are the young pig farmers who suddenly realise they look like Ovar the Gentle and go on great quests to return to his graces.” I pause, remembering the run-ins I have had over the years. “I hate those bastards.”
The info-dump complete I leant back in my chair.
“So why are these Wizard police coming for you?” Jess asked.
“We simply wanted to talk to you.”
We all screamed at the voice that had come from the doorway. Cliché leapt to his feet and began to growl. I reached for my blastrod but then remembered Cali had taken it from me. I picked up the chair and threw it at the man who was in my doorway. He waved a hand and the chair clattered off a forcefield.
“Crap,” I murmured and went for a pot plant.
“I would stop that if I was you.” The intruder stepped into the hallway now. He was a young black man, dressed in the traditional deep red robes of the Ein. He also had the trademark-shaved hair. Most magicians grew their hair to show age and for girls to stroke. Okay that last one was the unofficial reason but it still mattered. Anyway, the Ein realised that long hair is great when on the pull but once a Satanic Master has you in a headlock, the less they could grab the better.
The man bowed deeply.
“I am Caspian DeFlyn, messenger of the Apotopaic Einheriar Clan.”
I leant over to Jess.
“It means to protect from evil.”
“And I-in-hear-ear?” she said.
“We are named after the Viking warriors who spend eternity fighting in the Ragnerock,” Caspian said, standing a little straighter. He then turned to face me. He raised an eyebrow.
“You are the Fallen Fitcher?”
“Is that what they’re calling me?” I asked, attempting to be as intimidating possible while still wrapped in a blanket.
“Fallen?” Cali asked. She was holding the Druid knife we used as a letter opener.
“Yes. He was removed from the Clan.” He looked at me slightly appalled “Did you not tell them this?”
“I was getting there before you interrupted,” I scowled as I looked him over.
“What happened to Liam?”
Caspian smiled a little.
“He is now a father to twin girls. He quit to care for them.”
Jess stepped forward.
“Would you like to sit down Mister DeFlyn.”
“Thank you,” he said as he sunk into one of our plush chairs. He reached down to stroke Cliché who tried to bite him and then ran and hid in my office. I had to appreciate the attempt at defending me.
“Shouldn’t we be in the office?” Cali said, already getting to her feet to show the way. I wasn’t sure why they were being so friendly. Maybe they didn’t want to be dragged down with me. No, that’s a terrible thing to think. These are my friends. I think. I hope. Unless this was a conspiracy on the Wizard Councils part. They wouldn’t. They’ve done much worse before. I mean look at the Kennedy Assassination. Both of them!
I realised everyone was staring at me.
“The hall will do. I presume Mister DeFlyn won’t be staying.”
Caspian shifted in his chair and tapped the armrest in annoyance.
He looked me over. Pale, gaunt with long hair and wrapped in a blanket with sheep on it.
He waved a hand at my head. I braced, ready for him to release a blast of arcane power. He noticed this and raised an eyebrow. You notice how people who can cock an eyebrow need to do it for every emotion?
“I was going to say I liked what you did with your hair,” he said with a small smile.
I looked up at my coin, still stuck on the ceiling. With a small mental push, it fell into my open palm. I caught it and began to rub it. I needed something to distract me.
“You were in this Clan togther?” Cali asked me.
Caspian looked to me. I started running the coin over my knuckles. He sighed.

“Sam was but he had to be removed three years ago.”
“What did he do?” Jess asked glancing at me. I was in full pout mode now as I made the coin disappear and reappear.
“I’m afraid that is confidential Clan business.” Caspian said.
“Three years ago I tried to kill one of the chief Ein,” I said not looking up. Fifty pence, two pence, a shilling, a pound again.
Noticing the pause I looked up. Caspian was staring at me in annoyance. I opened my eyes as wide as I could. He didn’t flinch. So it was to be a battle of the wills then.
“You were lucky that he didn’t try to rip you to pieces like he should have.”
“I could have taken him.” I began to flick the coin through the air.
Caspian snorted.
“I doubt it. “
He looked at my employees now.
“The man he attacked chose not to kill him and even fought to stop Sam from getting the death penalty.”
Now it was my turn to snort. I reached over and pulled the coin from behind his ear. He grabbed my wrist.
“Are you going to keep doing that or do I need to break your hand?”
“I’m done,” I said.
He dragged me to my feet. As the blanket fell he throw his head back.
There was a loud crack and I felt like I fallen into a vat of treacle. A tingle of worry began to run up my back. I had tried to run because the Ein needed to be kept on their toes. But why did they need to freeze time around me?
When Caspian looked at me, his eyes were glowing red. The tingle became a throb.
“Fallen,” he began. His voice echoed around the room as I slumped to the floor. This was the Voice of the Messenger. Any who heard it had to listen. They only wheeled it out for the huge messages. I was screwed.
“You are accused that on the 8th December that you did kill a Miss Carrie Brown through the use of excessive magic. You will be tried at the next convening of the council.”
Caspian almost collapsed as the Voice left his body. I allowed him to fall. Hell, I was expecting a slap on the wrist for not paying for a magic animal licence not to be charged of murder.
I was going to be sick.
I felt Caspian put his hand on my shoulder. I didn’t look up.
“You had a protection spell on me.” I mumbled.
He leant against the wall next to me.
He blew his cheeks out in an exhausted breath.
“It’s procedure. We needed to ensure you’d received the message.”
He slumped next to me. We looked at the girls behind the shimmer of the time stop. They had both leapt to their feet and I think they were starting to shout.
“If it makes it any better I didn’t know that was the message.”
“You couldn’t send an email?” I deadpanned.
He laughed quietly.
“We had to make sure you got it.”
“When is the next meeting.”
“Twenty first.”
I had less then a fortnight.
I began to pick at a piece of fluff.
“Who am I up against?”
“Blackthorne is on duty then.”
I looked him. His face broke into an embarrassed smile.
“I would be him, wouldn’t it?” he said.
“Knowing me, yes.”
He laughed again and got to his feet. I did too.
We stood and faced each other. Bowing deeply, the rite was done. Caspian opened the door and as it closed the time bubble broke.
I turned. Cali and Jess looked shocked, as it had appeared I had managed to get naked, move across the room and hide Caspian in a blink of an eye.
I rolled my eyes
“Very long story”
As the spell that ensured my protection broke, I felt all the acid and pain from the day rush into my body. Eyes rolling back in my head, I collapsed as black rushed over me for the third time in three hours.
Not bad for a morning’s work.